The holidays can be a tense time for everyone, but for those who share custody of their children, the holiday season can be an even bigger headache. If not given the proper forethought, the festive nature of the holidays can quickly devolve into fights, hostile phone calls, and emergency court hearings.
Once upon a time, the holidays served as guaranteed time with your children and a full day spent with the people you love. One of the unfortunate consequences of divorce, however, is the traditions change in order to serve the needs of both parents. For that reason, the season can bring on unexpected emotions and resentment.
It is important not to act on those emotions and cause any potential negative results or compromise the co-parenting relationship for the future. Instead, take these steps to ensure a smooth holiday season (at least where custody is concerned).
Refer Back To Custody Agreement
Any well-written and thorough custody agreement, spelled out at the time of the initial divorce, will have a section where it discusses sharing custody over the holidays. This is typically done in three possible ways:
- Alternate years: a plan in which the parents rotate years spending the entire holiday with the child
- Equal time: a plan in which the parents split the holiday between the two
- Together: a plan for co-parents that have a highly functional relationship, in which they both spend the day with the child
Be sure to check the agreement to determine exactly how the arrangement should look in the coming weeks.
When scheduling trips, visits with family, and holiday events, adhere to the agreement in place so no potential conflict is created.
Keep Communication Open and Honest
If anything comes up, either planned such as an extended family vacation, or unplanned, such as flight delays, be in contact with your co-parent. Let them know the situation as soon as it occurs. That way, they have time to process and make alternate arrangements.
More importantly, avoid putting the children in the middle by making them the messenger. This can put the children in an uncomfortable position, especially if they fear upsetting the other parent. By contrast, consistent and truthful communication sets you and your co-parent up for a more amicable relationship open to compromise.
Holiday Custody Schedule Takes Precedence
Every year, a lot of parents are confused about how the holiday schedule spelled out in the custody agreement works with the typical schedule. In almost all cases, the holiday custody schedule takes precedence. This may result in one parent having a more extended time with the children if their typical weekend follows directly after a holiday, but remember this is for a short time only.
As the holidays approach, take a look at your planned schedule and have a conversation with your co-parent. If necessary, discuss the plans with your attorney. Knowing exactly what to expect and what to plan for can make the holiday season a little more peaceful and a lot more jolly.