The holidays can be a wonderful time of the year to spend with the family, but divorced families must often go through extra efforts to ensure that everyone gets to spend time together. Fortunately, a little planning before the holidays can benefit everyone and help avoid disappointment and resentment.
So what considerations should go into planning for the holidays when a family is no longer together? Here’s everything you need to know about balancing child custody matters with the holidays.
Start With a Formal Arrangement
You may already have a holiday arrangement detailed in your custody agreement. If so, go with that. If you’re still figuring this out, you’ll need to first agree upon a type of arrangement for you and your co-parent. Keep in mind that this arrangement will only be successful if it encompasses the needs of everyone, including the children. So before you agree on one specific method, take the time to listen and understand everyone’s wants and needs for the holidays.
Three general types of holiday arrangements parents often opt for are:
- Alternating Custody: Parents alternate holiday arrangements in their custody agreement every year, meaning for example one parent has a particular holiday in odd numbered years and the other parent has that same holiday in even numbered years.
- Half-and-Half/Splitting of holidays in your Custody arrangement: Children split their time between both parents
- Fixed Custody: Children spend each holiday with the same parent every year
However, even if you already have a formal agreement, remember that flexibility is always important when co-parenting. Situations can often arise that require a degree of flexibility to keep things flowing smoothly. If the other parent requests to modify the official plan, keep an open mind while listening to their reasoning. If you can’t agree to a change, then stick with the official plan.
Speak With the Children
Even though the parents are responsible for most of the planning and decisions, the children should be included in the discussion where appropriate, and their input should be considered valid and influential. At the end of the day, their preferences may not be possible, but leaving them out of the conversation entirely can alienate them and cause them to become isolated.
This also comes into play when it comes to the official arrangement, which you should
revisit as your children grow. After all, their wants and needs will change just as much as yours, and you should take their preferences into account. You and your co-parent should agree on at least that much, meaning you may need to formally revise your agreement further down the road.
Coordinating gift-giving can avoid several problems. For one, you can avoid disappointment by making sure your children’s expectations are managed and realistic. If you need to save money during a particular year, you may need to have a difficult conversation with your co-parent to ensure they don’t overspend and create an imbalanced relationship with your child.
In a similar vein, it’s wise to tread carefully when it comes to Kris Kringle. If one parent keeps the myth of Santa alive and the other puts it to rest, the holidays may not be quite so merry.
A Child Custody Lawyer Can Help
The holidays should be a special time for families. And while divorced and co-parenting parents have special challenges, it’s important to put these differences aside for a time to ensure everyone enjoys the season. If you have child custody issues to sort through before the holidays, consider meeting with an experienced family lawyer to find a solution that works for everyone.