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Setting Up For a Smooth Holiday
The holidays are upon us, a time filled with gratitude, love, and family. It’s a busy time with a combination of endless parties, cleaning, shopping, and each adding its own layer of stress. And you’re in the midst or aftermath of a divorce, it can add another layer of stress.
Establishing a new holiday arrangement if you are separated, can be challenging, especially if you’re in the middle of a family law case. If you already have a temporary order in place, then most of these decisions are outlined in your court order. Should you and your spouse agree to something not in the court order, it’s best to have it in writing, text or email. It does not replace your court order, but it’s good to have documentation in case of a future disagreement. If you do not have a court order, it is still best to try and document the plans you have agreed to with the other parent so it is clear.
So how do you help make the holiday meaningful?
Everyone has a unique relationship with their ex, some better and some worse. Even if tensions are high, always keep in mind that the holidays are about your children (not your ex or you). Encourage your child to enjoy every festive activity, no matter which parent they’re with.
Alternating annually or not
When creating your holiday custody schedule, there are a few common ways people tend to split their child(ren)’s time. It is common to alternate Spring Break and Thanksgiving. This allows the parent with possession that year to travel over the holiday.
Christmas or winter break is typically shared in some fashion each year with one parent getting the first part and the other the second – and then they alternate each year with who goes first. The exchange can be after Christmas Day (i.e. December 28) so each parent gets Christmas Day every other year and it leaves the possibility of traveling over Christmas Day. The parent who did not get Christmas will have the children through and after New Years Day.
Another method is to split the actual holiday or part of the day with each parent. For example, if Spring Break is 9 days total (5 schools days off and two weekends), then the parents could each take 4.5 days every year.
This is not real common, but if the time comes and the parents get along well, you could even consider spending the actual holiday (or part of it) together with your child – emphasis on the day. For example, if it’s the first Christmas, it might be good to do a Christmas brunch at a neutral restaurant so the children feel like they get time to spend it all together, but keep it short, sweet, and easy to maintain if it gets too tense.
During the holidays, especially in a time of difficult transition, it can be difficult to enjoy the spirit of the season (and can be easier to be a scrooge instead). As challenging as it may be, in hard times like these, we should still try to focus on the positive. Time goes on and things will change, but like the holidays, the gratitude and love we have for our children and families isn’t going anywhere.