A Holiday Custody Primer for Separated Parents

The winter break from school centered around the Christmas holidays is a stressful time for parents when they do not live each other.   Schedules are altered, travel may be involved and certainly in the early throes of a separation, not being without your children during a special time for them is heart-wrenching. To make this holiday less stressful and a time of joy for them take time to consider implementing the following:

Plan Ahead 

If parents do not already have a written custody schedule either via an agreement or court order in place, now would be a good time to discuss obtaining an agreement (a lawsuit would be expensive, not create the harmony you want and would allow a judge to make a snap decision regarding the holidays…if you get a hearing before the holidays commence.)  Waiting until November 20th is not a good idea.

Put the plan in writing 

If you can work out a custody agreement, make sure a family law attorney prepares it for you.  Do-It -Yourself agreements are often lacking in needed provisions, contain unnecessary provisions and are often executed improperly making them useless.   Your valid agreement can develop a standard schedule and a holiday and summer schedule that fits your needs for years to come. Remember, you can always adjust these arrangements as you agree from time to time as necessary to meet conditions existing at that time.  Then after that holiday is over, you revert to the usual schedule.

Celebrate with creativity  

If you’re unable to have time with your children on the holiday of your choosing, consider planning your own special celebration with them either before or after the actual holiday. Also arrange a quiet, private time for you to speak to your children on the actual holiday.  This of course means that the parent with custody at that holiday time should make sure the children speak with the other parent and loved ones on the holiday.  

Facilitate gift giving 

Coordinate gift-giving with the other parent to avoid gift duplication. Irrespective of your feelings towards the other parent, be sure to give the children any gifts, cards, emails or other messages from the other parent while they are with you. Also, let the children enjoy the gifts they’ve received from the other parent if that’s their wish. 

Share the love 

If your child is too young to select a gift on their own, help them make or buy a gift for the other parent. This will teach your children about thoughtful gift-giving and will also have the effect of giving your children permission to love the other parent. 

Be Flexible

You are supposed to exchange the children at noon on Christmas Day; however, the other parent has a chance to take the children to New York City, Disney or a cruise with the other parent and the time will run over a few days so that you would not exchange until the 27th at 8 p.m.  Think of what is best for the children, not “but its my time with them.”  That is being selfish and not in the children’s best interests.  On the other hand, if there is a selection of dates for the trip one should not plan the trip for the other parent’s time frame; be considerate. The holidays can be especially difficult for everyone when the family is no longer a single unit, but with a little planning and generosity you can create new traditions together. The family law attorneys at Weaver, Bennett & Bland, P.A. can help you prepare a parenting plan to ensure that you can enjoy a stress-free holiday season.