It's that time of year... again.
The holidays mean different things to different people. For some, it's the best time of year, packed with shopping, eating and good times. For others, it's a stressful period full of family drama and agita. Most people experience some mix of both.
If you have children and you're going through a divorce, or already divorced, the holidays present a different set of challenges. Mainly...
Parenting time with the children.
Family courts get backed up around the holidays because parents with children who are divorced, or in the process, argue over who gets to spend time with the children when.
Let's explore how you can minimize this from happening so you spend more time enjoying the holidays and less time going to court for an order telling you when you can see your children.
Parenting Time Plans
In order to avoid going through the "he said/she said" arguments about who promised or agreed to a certain schedule, you always want to have the parenting schedule in writing and agreed to by both parents.
This can be done a couple of ways. If the formal divorce process has not yet begun (a Complaint hasn't been filed with the court), then you will have to agree on a parenting plan yourself. If you have an attorney, he/she can help with this.
Your parenting plan can be as broad or specific as you wish. The point is that both parents must agree, or it won't be successful. If you want it to only cover holidays, then that's fine, but while you are negotiating parenting time, you might as well get as much done as possible. You've heard the saying:
Strike while the iron's hot!
The Art of Negotiation
When trying to work out a parenting schedule for the holidays, it's important to keep in mind that you both probably will want to have the children for the same days. That's what makes the holidays a tough time to deal with.
But, the key to success is being reasonable. That goes for both of you!
There are a lot of factors in deciding a holiday parenting schedule. There is no "right way" to do it. Let's review two of the more common ways to handle holiday parenting time.
This is a common method used by attorneys and the courts. Why? It's the easiest. In this scenario, the parents alternate which years they get a certain holiday. For example, if you have Christmas day this year, then your ex will have it next year. If your ex has Christmas Eve this year, you will have it next year. That's the idea.
Depending on how well you communicate with your ex, or soon-to-be-ex, this may be a viable option. Here, you agree to share each holiday so the children get to experience it with both parents. This works well if you live close together and communicate well with minimal drama.
If you want to negotiate a parenting plan, you have to be reasonable and probably won't get everything you want. Remember, the household is now split and you now have to account for both parents and one set of children.
It's a new lifestyle for everyone and it will take some time to adjust to it, but remember that the children (especially if they're young) don't understand what's going on and just want to spend time with both parents.
The holidays are about the children, so always keep that in mind. Think about how they view this time of year from their eyes.
It's Not What The Calendar Says.
December 25th is Christmas Day. That never changes. Chanukkah starts and ends on different dates each year. All parents want to spend these special days with their children.
Remember, when you're married, this isn't even an issue because you are one household. It's assumed that the family will be together to celebrate.
But, if you find yourself arguing over who gets to spend the day with the children, take a step back and remember it's not what the calendar says.
In other words, you make the day special, not the calendar. If you have the opportunity to spend the day after Christmas with the kids, you can make that just as special as December 25th. All I'm trying to say is don't get too caught up on the actual day.
If you can be flexible with your time, it may not be worth the fight, aggravation and effect on the children to start the next World War over it.
When children are young they love you no matter what. As they get older, they will be more aware of the games your ex tries to play regarding parenting time and the holidays. Don't go tit for tat. Be better than your ex.
Things can always be worse than they are now.
Happy Holidays and have a great New Year!
Jason Levoy, a/k/a The Divorce Resource Guy, is an attorney who coaches people without a lawyer how to navigate the divorce process and represent themselves in court. Join his free Private Divorce Facebook Group and check out his articles on How to Get Divorced.