The holiday season can be a joyous time for families to get together and celebrate, but let’s be honest, there’s some stress involved too. Families of divorce have to deal with the added stress of sharing custody over the holidays.
What makes these situations even more difficult is when parents lose sight of what should be important here: creating happy memories with your children and family. Small disagreements turn into a war of emails, phone calls, and emergency hearings – ruining the holidays for the warring parents and their children.
Here are 3 tips to alleviate the stress of sharing custody over the holidays:
1. Read Your Custody Order
The solution to many of the issues that arise over the holidays can be found in your custody order. Many arguments are started because either one parent or both parents did not read their custody order. A well-prepared custody order by an experienced family law attorney will spell out who has custody on the specific holiday and when custody exchanges should occur. Most holiday schedules alternate who has each holiday in odd years and even years.
So if mom has Christmas Day in even years, dad will have it in odd years. This reduces some of the squabbling since everybody knows where they are supposed to be on a given holiday. Unfortunately, not every custody order is so well-prepared, and either it is written too vaguely or it leaves out the holidays entirely. That is where tip #2 comes in…
2. Communicate Your Plans
Do you know whether you will be traveling over the holiday? Could this trip possibly interfere with the other parent’s custody time? Don’t leave the other parent in the dark until the last minute! And especially don’t have your kids be the ones to pass the message that they’re going to Disney World over winter break.
Give the other parent a heads up! If you are driving to upstate New York for Thanksgiving and there will inevitably be heavy traffic coming back, tell the other parent before the trip and see if you can come up with a backup plan. Parents who leave each other in the dark unnecessarily cause huge ordeals when someone is running late or a flight is delayed. And that brings us to our last tip…
3. What Goes Around Comes Around
What inevitably happens when sharing custody over the holidays is one parent asks for an extra hour or maybe even a day with the kids. Either they are traveling to see family across the country or they have a special trip planned over the holiday break. The client then calls upset that the other parent is trying to change the schedule last minute and it’s unfair. I always remind the client that if you tell your ex “no” to extra time this Christmas, what do you think is going to happen next year when you ask for an extra hour or day over Thanksgiving?
The other parent is going to tell you, “NO!” Remember, often times the extra time being requested is to benefit your children. Depriving them of a vacation or visiting family just so you get a “win” over the other parent is not in your children’s best interests and certainly is not in the holiday spirit.
As everyone’s situation is different, be sure to consult with an experienced family law attorney about the specifics of your case.
Scott Matison focuses solely on family law matters in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including divorce, custody, support, abuse, adoptions, and name changes. He can be reached at [email protected] and www.consolematison.com.