It's the most wonderful time of the year...it’s also the busiest and can be the most stressful time for families with parents who are separated or divorced, and have to figure out how to make sure that the children spend time with both parents. Creating a holiday schedule doesn’t have to be a source of stress for parents and children. In fact, the purpose of having a schedule or court order in place ahead of time is to alleviate frustration, confusion and chaos. These things enable both parents to plan for their major holidays respectively, while ensuring that the children have adequate time with each parent and the sense of security that comes with having a well communicated, mutually agreed upon plan. Children have so many expectations and emotions tied to holidays, due to the traditions and memories created. No child wants to spend the holidays, after a separation or divorce, listening to parents argue, being put in the middle of parental squabbles, or being made to feel guilty for spending time with one parent over the other parent. Parents should work together to mitigate anxiety and negative emotions for their children, while preparing them for new traditions and schedule changes in a way that reassures them that the holidays will still be memorable and a positive experience. The Custody Queens have some valuable tips for parents who want to navigate the holiday season as peacefully as possible by creating a plan that works for everyone, especially the children.
- Plan ahead. Do not wait until the last minute to start a conversation with the other parent. This needs to be well thought out and planned for in advance of the holiday so that plans can be communicated with the children.
- Be specific in crafting court Orders, but remain open to flexibility in practice. Having a specific court Order can help manage expectations and mitigate stress. On the other hand, remember life happens and being flexible with the other parent can be more practical and help foster a genuine co-parenting relationship.
- Accept that holidays will generally be split. This is really a conversation about how to arrange the time. Some suggestions on how to do this are:
- Alternating holidays (i.e. In odd years one parent has Christmas Eve and the other parent has Christmas day. In even years, the parents switch days.)
- Split the day between both parents (i.e. The first half of Thanksgiving Day is spent with one parent, the second half of Thanksgiving Day is spent with the other)
- Schedule the holiday twice. As parents, we can observe holidays on alternative days. For example, often separated parents observe their child’s birthday on a different day so that both parents get to celebrate. What child doesn’t want two birthdays?!
- Address travel. Will arrangements be needed for transportation and what time will need to be allotted for this? Who will be making these arrangements and paying travel expenses?
- Keep the children out of it. Even if you disagree, do not bring your children into the dispute—children want to celebrate holidays, not inherit your stress.
- Itemize which holidays need to be addressed in the Order. Some families celebrate only major holidays; others celebrate additional days/school break days/etc…Consider the type of schedule you have. If you exercise joint physical custody, do you really need to recognize all non-major holidays? The answer is sometimes yes. However, consider that with a joint physical arrangement, exercising non-major holidays does not provide you with additional time—it provides you with adjusted time that may cause unnecessary disruptions to an otherwise consistent schedule.
- Be efficient. Consider negotiating/agreeing on the entire year’s holiday/special day schedule at the same time. There is inevitably going to be more passion related to the holiday which is right in front of you (i.e. Christmas Eve or Christmas Day). Rather than having 8-9 different negotiations every time a holiday is approaching, just sit down, and agree on whatever split works best for your family for the entire year. If you don’t have your preferred schedule for this year, ask to reverse the schedule on alternating years so that it is consistent and your children get the opportunity to experience each holiday with both sides of the family.
- Special requests. If the other side has a request, do not refuse it just for the sake of refusal. Consider asking for an accommodation on your own special requests when negotiating.
- Identify your family’s unique needs. If you have them, include them in the plan or Order.
Now is the time to get your plan or orders in place to ensure that everyone has a peaceful holiday. For more tips on thriving during the holiday season, please read our blog post on Tips for Co-parenting Around The Holidays. With good communication, a willingness to compromise and proper planning, your holiday can be a lot less stressful and a lot more merry. Be sure to follow us on social media for daily posts and more.
The material and information contained on this website is for general information purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. It does not create an attorney/client relationship in any way, shape or form. The Custody Queens, a division of Holstrom, Block and Parke, are attorneys at law, licensed to practice in the state of California and have based the information presented on US laws. All cases are different and nothing in this content is intended to suggest any particular result for your matter. Custody Queens has no control over and accepts no liability in respect of materials, products or services available on any website which is not under the control of Custody Queens. Certain links in this website may lead to websites which are not under the control of Custody Queens, or Holstrom, Block and Parke, APLC. When you activate these website links, you will leave the Custody Queens website. Therefore, we have no control over and accept no liability in respect of the materials, products or services available on the third party websites, which are not under control of Custody Queens. There is no substitute for seeking out advice from a competent Family Law professional and you should always consult with an attorney before you rely on this information.