Creating your parenting plan is one of the most challenging parts of the divorce process. The parenting plan is the document that details how child custody will work. These plans provide instructions and details on where the children will be and when. That includes which parent the children will be with for the holidays.
What happens if the parenting plan does not fit your needs for the holidays any longer? If you got divorced when your children were toddlers, a decade later, their needs have likely changed. If your former spouse is not agreeable to a change regarding holidays or other varying needs, you may need to take action.
Put the Children First
Parents often get caught up in the idea that Christmas isn’t Christmas if it isn’t spent together on the 25th day of December. However, as children get older, you may find that they would rather have a longer amount of time on a different day rather than attempt to see everyone on December 25th. Nothing says that holiday traditions can’t be adjusted to fit the needs of growing children and their families. This sentiment applies not only to Christmas, but also to other holidays of significance in your family.
One of the first things you can do if you and your former spouse disagree about holiday parenting time is attempt a discussion. If the two of you can have an open discussion regarding how things have gone and how you would like things to go, this can go a long way toward solving your problem. However, don’t expect it to be an easy conversation, and you should put any agreements you make in writing. Any discussion with an ex can be difficult emotionally, but you should remember that you are trying to work together for the children.
If you have older tweens or teenagers, you may find that sitting down with them can help you and your former spouse iron out a workable holiday schedule. For example, the children may particularly want to see MawMaw Smith but feel uncomfortable with the extended family festivities with Great-Grandma Jones. They may prefer to visit Great-Grandma on a day when it can be just them with her to avoid being overwhelmed. After all, this is the holiday season, not just one day.
Don’t make the discussion with your children about choosing between family members. Instead, ask them how they enjoy spending the holidays. Perhaps tell them you want to make the holidays less stressful for everyone, so you would like their input on how to celebrate this year.
Try to Agree on a Reasonable Schedule
Remember, the goal is to settle your parenting/visitation worries without adding stress or bad memories associated with a custody battle. There are several ways to schedule holiday visits within your parenting plan. You should choose the one that will work best for everyone involved; here are some of the most popular holiday arrangements.
· Alternate: With an alternating schedule, the children are with one parent one year for a holiday and the other the next. This arrangement lets each parent have their children on specific holidays, but some parents want to see the children every holiday, so an alternating schedule may not work.
· Split: With a split schedule, each parent gets part of the day with the children. This option works well for parents who want to see their children on every holiday, but it means that the children will have to travel between parents on the holidays. Splitting the holidays may not be a viable option if there’s a significant distance between the two homes.
· Fixed: With a fixed holiday schedule, the children are with a specific parent every year for the same holidays. For example, if one parent’s family has a huge family gathering for Thanksgiving, but the other parent doesn’t celebrate it, the children would be with the celebrating parent each year. Additionally, there may be set family events or times around the holidays when certain families celebrate each year. The parents can work together to ensure the children are at those events.
· Creative Schedule: With a creative schedule, the parents schedule days where each one gets time with the children for the holidays. For example, the parents might alternate who has the children for Halloween each year but schedule a scary movie night with the other parent so that they both get time with the children for fun activities.
Creating a parenting plan with a satisfactory holiday arrangement can be difficult. If you find you need assistance with creating a parenting plan, contact one of the attorneys at Vayman & Teitelbaum by calling 678-580-4437.