Working out child custody and visitation with your ex-spouse during the holiday season can be one of the hardest parts of the aftermath of a divorce. Not for the faint of heart.
Splitting up your time during the season is hard enough when you're newlyweds. Who gets the couple for Thanksgiving? Her parents or his parents? Do you alternate years? Does one family get Thanksgiving and the other get Christmas?
Then the grandchildren come and the battle intensifies. Okay, maybe not a true battle but urgings, guilt and feeling like you're being pulled in two directions. Or maybe three if you have a couple of sets of grandparents.
Throw divorce in to the mix and things can get really complicated.
I got divorced in the state of Florida. My divorce was fairly simple: we were relatively young, didn't have a lot of assets and weren't married longer than 10 years. We were able to settle it with the help of a mediator. The most complicated issue was child custody.
But even that complication was made easier by the mediator telling us that unless either one of us had reason to believe the other was an unfit parent, the judge would enforce the state's "Model Parental Time Sharing Schedule". He handed us each a packet which broke down our custodial responsibilities by the Primary Residential Parent (me) and the Secondary Residential Parent (him). The packet detailed how we were to divide the children's time, down to summer vacations, and holidays such as Mother's Day and Halloween.
And of course Thanksgiving and Christmas.
For the first couple of years after we were divorced, I kept the schedule in my junk drawer in the kitchen, referring to it often. (Is it an odd year? So I have the kids on Spring Break but not over Memorial Day?)
But as time went on and my ex-husband and I settled in to our divorced parental roles, I started referring to the schedule less and less. And for the past 5 years, we've used the schedule as a very loose guideline, making plans by checking with each other and changing things as the kids get older and their needs have changed.
Add in the fact that we live near each other and the back and forth between households is, if not seamless, then pretty darn close.
Don't get me wrong. It wasn't always like this. Our exemplary joint parental relationship didn't come naturally. We worked at it. Both together and separately. It's been worth it. For me and for him but most importantly for our kids.
Which brings us back to the holidays. My ex-husband is Catholic and I'm Jewish. Our kids are being raised in both faiths. One irony of marrying someone of a different faith than you is that, though it may complicate the marriage, it sure does simplify parts of the divorce.
So Thanksgiving this year? The kids are with me. It's an even numbered year. We'll head down to my parents' house for the long weekend. Spend time with my out-of-town brother, his wife and kids.
Christmas? The kids will be with their dad, their other grandparents and the rest of that part of the family.
Easy, right? But even last year, an odd numbered year, when the kids were with him for Thanksgiving and slated to be with me for Christmas? They were still with him for Christmas. Because the most important thing to remember in custody dealings? That you have to do what's best for your children. Christmas morning waking up with their Jewish mother? Or at their dad's house reveling in all of the Christmas magic?
But don't worry. We celebrate Hanukkah at my house in a pretty big way. You can do a lot with eight nights.