Are you newly separated or mid-divorce with no parenting agreement/order in place? Start the holiday visitation conversation early to avoid piling on the stress. We have 5 ways to help you navigate these new waters:
1. Parents Decide, Not The Kids
Do not discuss plans with the children before an agreement is in place. This reduces confusion for them and reduces your conflict with the other parent. Planning holiday schedules should be left to the adults. Ask your family law attorney when, and if, children should be included in planning. Remember, you and your child will feel pain and grief as your holidays shift into unfamiliar territory. Be as flexible as possible in working with your co-parent, but keep your child at a safe distance from the stress of planning.
2. Can We Share Anything?
If you and your ex can get along for an hour or two, try overlapping an activity at exchange time like bedtime stories, a favorite holiday movie, or decorating cookies. Older kids might like a shopping meet-up with both parents and grabbing a quick beverage afterward. Take group pics for the kids to treasure. Only consider this option if you are both predictably able to conduct the joint activity. This is not an option for families with domestic violence or other limiting factors.
3. Travel Matters
If your family enjoys travel, talk to your family law attorney. They will help you create a flexible plan beyond the standard Christmas Eve/Christmas Day split. You might better enjoy alternating full holiday time which provides better travel possibilities for your child. You need to address out-of-state or out-of-country travel, due dates for sharing travel plans with the other parent, and itineraries. Your family law attorney will help you identify how holiday travel is managed and what travel consent forms should contain.
4. Time-Honored Family Traditions
You may want to advocate for certain family traditions (i.e., Christmas Eve is always at maternal grandma’s house). Consider foregoing the “traditional odd/even holiday schedule” in favor of maintaining traditions that are great for the kids. Predictability lowers stress for your child and provides them with something to look forward to. Think cousin time, religious observations, and cooking traditions. Address these things early on and be flexible in honoring the other parent’s values, as well.
5. Put It In Writing!
Confirm holiday agreements in writing every time. This practice is helpful whether or not you have a parenting order in place. In the event of a parenting dispute, your family law attorney will use your records to represent you and support your position. Don’t rely on your memory alone to try to resolve or mediate past difficulties. Email works great for this purpose. In addition, use your favorite app to note your frustrations or ideas to improve the schedule.
When it comes to holiday time, flexibility is key to creating good memories for your children post-separation and helps you right now. Call our office today to schedule a consultation with one of our expert family law attorneys.