The holidays are filled with happiness and joyous occasions…most of the time. For families of divorce the holidays can be anything but those things. They are often filled with struggle and conflict about custody. Then, top all of that off with emotions in regards to past relationships you have a recipe for a very stressful time of year. It doesn’t have to be that way; you can regain the joy and happiness in your holidays with a bit of planning, collaboration and especially communication.
The first step in a happy holiday season is to determine which holidays are most important to you. For example, is Thanksgiving more important to you than Christmas Eve? If so, then communicate this to the co-parent. Christmas Eve may be more important to him or her; thus, eliminating a conflict. There will be times that you both want the children on the same day. If you live close enough to one another, then you could possibly share the day. To split the holiday in one day requires some coordinating, but it can help children not feel torn and guilty for enjoying the day with one parent and not the other. For example, one parent could host a Thanksgiving brunch or early lunch and the other could host a Thanksgiving dinner allowing the children to spend an enjoyable day with both parents. If you do not live near one another, then you will most likely need to alternate years with the co-parent. If it is not your “year” to spend the holiday with your child, you can still let your child know you are thinking of him or her by sending a package to arrive in time for the holiday.
Planning ahead with your ex will help to identify conflicts and sort them out early. This also allows the children to know ahead of time where they will be spending the holiday. Couples often forget that the children need time to plan as well. This is especially important if the divorce is fairly recent and this will be their first year or two spending the holidays with each parent separately. Kevin Hickey Law Partners can help you go through this process and present it to your ex and/or his or her attorney. If it is short notice, it is unlikely the court will approve a change, but we can work with your spouse’s attorney to help reach the same compromise that the court will likely order.
Additionally, if your children are old enough, check in with them. They have inner lives to consider as well. Talk to them to get an idea of what is important to them and what they want to do on their vacation.
After you have determined the best holiday visitation schedule for you and your children, it will need to be written down. In order to be valid, the agreement should be signed by both you and your ex. This ensures that you both understand the agreement and it is favorable evidence if your ex fails to adhere to it.
A couple of other things to keep in mind this holiday season:
- If you plan to take your children out-of-state, check your custody agreement. Many have provisions prohibiting out-of-state and/or a distance over a certain amount of miles without telling the other parent. You will need to ask permission first.
- Think twice before purchasing a gift for your child that you know will upset the co-parent. If you feel the gift is safe and appropriate, then it is a good idea to make a deal with your child that it only stays at your house.
Planning and communicating early allows you to focus on the children and making their holidays memorable and happy. After all, isn’t that your first priority? To make sure your children are happy and secure. Contact Kevin Hickey Law Partners to let us help you work out a holiday schedule for you and your children. We not only identify relevant holidays, but we also help establish the parameters. If you get the children on Christmas Day, when does it start? Is it 9:00 am, 12:00 pm, etcetera? We are also here to help you when legal questions arise. Our team is dedicated to your legal care.