If you're a co-parent, you're probably stressing out about the holidays. Between busy work schedules, vacations, and school breaks for Christmas and Thanksgiving, it can be challenging to juggle co-parenting and the holiday season.
Taking certain precautions and understanding the role of your parenting plan in your child custody dynamic can help make the holiday season less stressful—we're here to show you how.
At The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller, we help parents navigate custody disputes with confidence.
First Things First: Deciding How You Want to Handle the Holidays
Your first order of business should be deciding how you want to handle the major holidays around this time of year: Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukkah, and New Year's Eve.
You have a few options:
- Split each holiday in half. You can have an arrangement where you spend the first half of each holiday with your child, and your co-parent gets them for the other half (or vice-versa).
- Designate certain holidays for each parent. For example, you can spend Thanksgiving and New Year's with your child, as long as your co-parent gets them for Christmas day.
- Share the holidays together. Another popular option is for co-parents (and their partners, if they have any) to spend the holidays together with the child.
What arrangement you choose depends on your relationship with your co-parent. If you're estranged from one another, dividing the holidays entirely might be a good option. On the other hand, if you still get along well, sharing the holidays with your child as a family unit can be a wonderful experience.
You should discuss these options with your child and ask them what they would prefer. Your child may have valuable input of their own, and listening to them can help make the holidays even better.
As an aside, you should also discuss what gifts you're getting for your child with your co-parent. For example, if your child wants a certain gift that's too expensive for either party, perhaps you can pool your funds to get them what they want. Discussing gift-giving ahead of time also enables you to avoid purchasing duplicates for your child.
Figure Out Your Schedules in Advance
You should work together with your co-parent to figure out what your schedules will look like in advance. Depending on your profession, you may have more or less work over the holidays. You may also have time off. Communicating consistently about your itinerary can help you schedule vacations around each other and avoid scheduling conflicts.
You should also consider your child's schedule. Depending on their breaks, you may need to arrange childcare for them. If your child's school plans on holding school events or meetings, discuss who will attend those.
Agree on Boundaries
It's probably safe to say your child will want to get up to some mischief over the holidays. Discussing boundaries, such as:
- Who they're allowed to hang out with;
- How much time they can spend on social media or gaming;
- Whether they must attend to any academics over the breaks, and;
- What activities are acceptable over the break;
Can help your child make the most of the holidays and reduce conflict between the parents.
Think About Modifying Your Parenting Plan
The holidays are touch-and-go for many co-parents, especially those who recently got divorced.
Once you figure out how to handle the holidays, you may want to consider filing for a custody order modification in court. Filing a modification case allows you to adjust the terms of your parenting plan. That means you can incorporate your holiday custody arrangement into your already existing parenting plan and make it legally binding.
Having the same routine every year when the holidays roll around (for example, establishing uniform rules for taking a vacation with the child and how to handle each specific holiday), can help create a more consistent, stress-free experience for the entire family.
At The Law Offices of Daniel J. Miller, we’re here to provide you with the high-quality legal counsel you deserve during your custody dispute.