Child Custody During the Holidays

Child Custody During the Holidays

The holidays are upon us. We just made it through Thanksgiving, and now Christmas is rapidly approaching. Christmas is often a joyous time of year where people spend time with family and friends. Kids are excited about presents and the impending visit from Santa.

Deciding on a schedule for the holidays can be challenging enough for most people. Where should they go on Christmas Eve? What about Christmas morning or evening? Should they stay home? Should they spend time with family? Should they attend their friend’s or neighbor’s party?

There is no doubt that Christmas can be a hectic time of year. This is especially true for divorced families who must deal with child custody issues. Both parents will likely want to spend time with the kids during this time of year. The parenting plan may or may not consider holiday situations, leaving the parents to navigate this already busy time of year on their own. Should the kids go to Mom’s or Dad’s house? When will they see their grandparents and other family members?

Trying to compromise and create a fair schedule can be quite a challenge, especially if the parents are not on amicable terms. As such, determining holiday schedules can lead to disagreements, heightened emotions, frustration, and even anger.

Determining a Holiday Schedule

Fortunately, there are various parenting schedules that can be employed to help parents decide who gets the kids and on what days. Here are some common ways parents can share holiday time:

  • Assign fixed holidays. Some parents place more emphasis on certain holidays While Mom may enjoy Christmas more, maybe Dad is more excited about Thanksgiving because he always cooks a lavish meal with his side of the family. In this case, it might be a good idea for the kids to stay with Dad during the Thanksgiving holiday, allowing Mom to have the kids for Christmas.
  • Switch holidays every year. This allows the parents to have the kids for one holiday every year. For example, maybe this year, Mom gets the kids on Thanksgiving and Dad gets them on Christmas. Next year, Dad gets the kids on Thanksgiving and Mom gets them on Christmas. This allows each parent to have the kids for part of the holiday season.
    Schedule two separate holidays. You do not have to celebrate Christmas on December 24 or 25. Maybe one parent can have the kids on the 25th, while the other can have the kids a week later for a combined Christmas/New Year celebration. Or you can celebrate Christmas a week earlier. Find a schedule that works best for your families.
  • Split the holiday. You can also choose to split the holiday, although this may mean that your child spends a lot of the holiday traveling. If both parents live close by, Mom can have the kids on the 24th and Dad can have them on the 25th, or vice versa.
  • Have Christmas together. Just because you and the other parent are no longer married does not mean you cannot do anything together. Obviously, the success of this arrangement will depend on how well you two get along. If you can handle a few hours together without arguing, then it might be a nice gesture in keeping with the Christmas spirit. Just do not give your children hope of a reconciliation.

Holiday Scheduling Tips

It is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but that does not always ring true for divorced couples. You may still be angry at your ex-spouse over the divorce, but if children are involved, you will need to find ways to be friendly with the other parent at least until your children become adults. Here are some tips to make child custody schedules over the holidays less daunting:

  • Ask the children. What do they want to do for Christmas? Do they have traditions that they particularly enjoy? Or are you focusing on what you want as a parent? Are you trying to make the other parent upset? The focus should be on the happiness of the children, so stop arguing with your ex-spouse and make your child’s holiday brighter.
  • Communicate carefully. If you have a hard time being agreeable with your ex-spouse, find the best way to communicate about holiday scheduling. If you stand to see each other in person, then use the phone. Texting and email are also good options. Avoid topics that are sore spots. Be a good example for your children by getting along and avoiding negative behavior that can ruin their holidays.
  • Be flexible. Try not to be too rigid in your plans. Not everything is going to go your way, so do not be angry about the holidays and having to split time with your ex-spouse. It is always better to get along than to spend the holidays upset. Try to relax and allow for some fun. However, if the other parent is simply being unreasonable with a holiday schedule, then contact your lawyer and get advice.

Seek Legal Help

When parents have joint custody, the holidays can be a contentious time of year. Both parents naturally want to spend time with their children at Christmas, but finding the right schedule that will work for all the parties involved can be challenging.

Palm Beach divorce attorney Scott J. Stadler can assist you with child custody issues. If you and the other parent cannot create a schedule on your own, we can help make the holidays less stressful. Contact us today by calling (954) 346-6464.