With the holidays coming upon us, parents that are separated or divorced face the challenge of sharing or alternating holidays with the children. In order to minimize conflict, here are a few suggestions:
Having two households means that both parents will be making holiday plans and that often includes plans with extended family. Add in one or two step-parent’s extended families, and the amount of holiday planning multiplies. Last minute scrambling to secure holiday parenting time will inevitably lead to a conflict. The longer you wait, the more stressful the process becomes.
If you can’t agree between the two of you, you may need to bring the matter before the court. A motion needs to be filed far enough in advance to schedule it for the court to hear it. This is not something that you can do at the last minute. I actually heard an irritated judge ask a parent, “Wait, you just found out that Christmas was on December 25th?”
Review Your Court Documents.
Final custody settlement agreements and judgments should already have a holiday visitation schedule. When planning holiday visitation, check your final court documents first. Make sure you know what is required of you in making and communicating your holiday plans to the other parent.
Communicate in Writing.
Always make sure you communicate with the other parent in writing (text messages count). This is extremely helpful if you need to refer to what you agreed on or if you can’t agree and need to bring the matter to your attorney. This should go without saying, but be respectful in your communications and try to leave out the negativity.
Think About the Kids.
The holidays are about the children. Holidays can be depressing for many people. Don’t show your sadness in front of the children and don’t make them feel guilty for spending a holiday with the other parent instead of you.
Leave the children out of the scheduling process. Unless they are making requests to go to specific holiday parties, they should not be involved in the decision-making process.
Consider communicating with your ex about what gifts you will be giving. If Santa delivers to both houses and the same gift is given at each house, it could be awkward. Although, if Santa delivers a Wii to both households because the Wii won’t be travelling with the kids, that might make sense for your family.