Here are 6 recommendations I share with my clients to ease the stress and lessen the risk for conflict regarding child custody during the holidays.
An often unforeseen complication of separation or divorce is the highly emotional decision of who has custody of your children over the major holidays.
It is natural to feel mixed emotions as you approach the holiday season: excitement over the holidays coupled with sadness and perhaps some resentment over having to split the holidays with your co-parent.
Every family lawyer or Parenting Coordinator in Pennsylvania has been the recipient of a tearful or angry telephone call on the eve of a major holiday because the child custody holiday schedule is too vague or is not being adhered to.
1. Plan ahead. There is no better way to set yourself up for unnecessary conflict and disagreement in the middle of an already busy holiday than a vague custody order. Be as specific as possible about what holidays will be shared, when and where the anticipated exchange times will be, and which parent will be doing to the transportation.
2. Be prepared to be flexible, if necessary. Accommodate extended family events that fall on “your time”. Set aside the temptation to use the custody schedule to punish the other parent – you are just punishing your children. Your children, whether they realize it or not, will appreciate their parents working together to maximize the joy of holidays for them. And you never know when it could happen in your situation!
3. Consider sharing major holidays. Split the day as evenly as possible, like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Alternate who has the “preferable” portion of the day each year. (Keep records!) If the holiday event cannot be reasonably split, like Seder (a Jewish ritual service and ceremonial dinner for the first night or first two nights of Passover), then alternate who has the event each year.
4. Offset similar minor holidays like Labor Day and Memorial Day or New Years Eve and the Fourth of July. Minor holidays might not be minor to some. Take into account that co-parents may have more of a vested interest in 4th of July, (Their extended family has a big fireworks display every year) or other holiday.
5. Honor old traditions, but do not be afraid to forge ahead with new traditions in this new stage of life. Take this opportunity to start traditions you meant to do before, but never got around to starting. Visit the light displays in your town, go see a holiday themed show downtown, round up the troops for a Thanksgiving hike in Wissahickon park – find an event you can continue to celebrate with your family for years to come.
6. Make time for yourself in the midst of the holiday chaos. Remember, it is okay to mourn the loss of a past way of life. It is also okay to feel happy about creating a new life and new memories. Be sure to take the time to do something for yourself.
When all is said and done, it's about giving the kids the best experience and family time possible, so personal feelings or resentment have no place in making child custody holiday schedules.
If you have questions about custody agreements, please contact Elizabeth C. Early at (610) 275-0700 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Our attorneys in Bucks County and Montgomery County are here to assist you.
The information above is general: we recommend that you consult an attorney regarding your specific circumstances. The content of this information is not meant to be considered as legal advice or a substitute for legal representation.