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Shared Parenting Time and the Holiday Season


Published on November 20th, 2020

Whether it be during a divorce or parentage proceeding, post-divorce or visitation litigation, or if you are physically separated from your spouse or partner but are not involved in a court proceeding, shared parenting time can often be logistically or emotionally difficult for the children and the parents alike.  However, the holidays can pose an extra challenge to co-parenting as those special days have a unique place in our hearts and spending time with family is a central part of that.  As such, it may be challenging to share an essential part of your family traditions with a former spouse or partner around religious or national holidays.  It may take some advance planning and a possible shift in perspective, but there are several steps you can take to ensure that the children (and you) best enjoy the holidays while exercising shared parenting time:

Determine Your Holiday Parenting Schedule Ahead of Time

If you do not have a set holiday schedule in place already as part of a custody or allocation judgment, don’t wait until the last minute to plan your holiday parenting schedule.  Set aside time with your current or former partner earlier in the year to sit down and discuss with your co-parent how each of you envisions the holiday schedule to maximize the children’s best interests.

If you have a parenting plan established by a court, you should have already accounted for factors such as geographical constraints and the children’s school closing schedule, however, you may need to update the agreement due to new family arrangements or the changing needs for the children as they get older and develop.  If you believe that your current custody or allocation agreement may need to be modified regarding the holiday schedule (or in general), you should contact one of our attorneys especially if the relationship with your co-parent is contentious.

If you are able to reach a resolution with your co-parent regarding the holiday schedule or any modifications to an existing arrangement, you two should figure out the best way to update your children so that they can anticipate the holiday season with joy and not uncertainty or trepidation.

Consider What Is Best for Your Children

In the stress and bustle of planning for the holiday season, it can be easy to lose sight of what is important.  If you find yourself caught up in the negative emotions towards your ex-spouse, partner, or current co-parent, take a deep breath and ask yourself one prevailing question above all others:  What is best for your children?  Even if the answer to that question varies between you and the other parent, this simple exercise can help add clarity to the situation or any potential dispute.

This perspective shift can also extend to helping the communication with your children.  One universal goal should be for the kids to speak positively about each parent so that the holidays can be memorable and fun, instead of another reminder that their parents are separated.  In addition, the holidays may be the first time you have seen many family members since your relationship ended and they may want to express their true feelings about his or her behavior.  Unless you are doing it in a positive way, it is always best to wait until the children are out of earshot to discuss the co-parent with friends of relatives.

Consider Compromises

While you may have a host of fun traditions, not only do you have your children’s needs to consider but you need to keep in mind the preferences and traditions of your co-parent.  Be prepared to make some compromises so that the holiday season can be a smooth and fun one for your children.

One way to approach this may be to express your attachment or preference for certain holidays or family traditions that have always occurred at a specific time.  If your family has its biggest celebration on Christmas Eve, then that may be more important to you than any Christmas Day celebration.  But be flexible.  Your co-parent may have similar priorities and you still may need to compromise.

If your relationship with your co-parent is too strained to have these discussions in a constructive way, then a knowledgeable Davis Friedman family law attorney can help you to navigate holiday parenting time.

Incorporate New Traditions

Since co-parenting during the holiday season means that you will almost certainly have to share a good portion of parenting time, try to create new traditions to make the time you have together as special as possible.  For example, if you don’t have Thanksgiving with your children this year, can you make a new tradition of Black Friday shopping and turkey sandwiches? If you don’t have Christmas Day with your children, can you start an advent calendar tradition? Now is the time to be creative – your children will love whatever special time they have with you.

Taking Care of Yourself

Don’t forget to take care of yourself during this emotional time.  During the time that your co-parent has the kids during this holiday season, instead of focusing on the children not being with you, try to spend that time in whatever way makes you the happiest – whether that’s being with extended family or friends or taking the time for yourself.  The holidays can be a very happy time, but they can also be a very sad one, depending on your familial status – and it’s important to ensure you are taking care of your mental and physical health.  While your children’s needs are first and foremost when it comes to holiday planning, don’t forget to take some time for self-care as well.

If you need help creating or modifying a custody or allocation agreement, or addressing holiday shared parenting time, contact a Davis Friedman attorney today. Contact our law firm online or call us at 312-782-2220.

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