The holiday season can be a difficult time for those who’ve recently divorced or have a divorce still pending. However, disruptions to old routines can be even more challenging when new divorcees or soon-to-be-former spouses have minor children together, and need to determine how to effectively share parenting time, responsibilities, and address other issues that accompany the holidays.
Because a proper and well-prepared parenting plan can help alleviate stress and preserve the holiday spirit for your little ones, our legal team at Grossman Law Offices has put together a few important tips and things to consider as you navigate the holidays after or during a divorce.
- Set your priorities – One of the most important things parents can do during the holidays, especially amid a pending divorce, a legal separation, or a new post-divorce life, is to put their children first when making parenting plans. Whether you and your ex are still grappling with difficult issues in your case, be they related to property division, spousal support, or any other related matter, putting those differences aside in order to minimize a child’s exposure to conflict can go a long way in helping them enjoy a happy and healthy holiday season. As you plan, remember the importance of co-parenting, communication, and compromise – if not for your former spouse or yourself, at least for your children.
- Customize your plans – No two families are exactly alike, which is why you should be careful of adopting plans that don’t fit your unique situation and needs. There’s no specific or standard schedule when it comes to co-parenting during the holidays, and many parents choose to create different schedules specifically to address arrangements during major holidays. Take the time to plan and communicate possible schedules that best meet your child’s needs and promote their ability to enjoy the season in a way that preserves each parent’s traditions and values. You will likely need to consider the types of activities each parent would like to enjoy with the child, the availability of each parent, the distance of each parent and whether they may have relocated, the distance of their intended activity or event, and ways to any resolve personal or scheduling conflicts that may arise.
- Be flexible – As you work on creating customized parenting plans, be aware that you may have to make concessions and compromise. Flexibility will be a crucial factor, not only when it comes to hammering out the details with the other parent, but also when it comes to doing what’s best for your child. To help improve your flexibility, think of some options you can turn to when scheduling conflicts arise. This may involve determining whether you or another parent may need to celebrate some holidays outside of the actual date, which parent will have which holiday, scheduling phone calls with a parent, and more. You can also find ways to enjoy the holidays as you share parenting time throughout the season, such as by creating new traditions or attending events in the days or weeks leading up to a major holiday. Flexibility can also help should any unforeseen changes arise. Remember, any plans you may have already created don’t have to be set in stone as long as both parents can communicate and agree on any needed changes, as well as trade-offs for those changes.
- Consider extended family – A divorce has the potential to disrupt a child’s relationships with their extended family, so it is important to consider how they can spend time with relatives from both parent’s families during the holidays. If you know the other parent’s family has a big celebration on a certain holiday, while yours does so on a different day, for example, consider that when planning your own parenting schedule. Communication with the other parent about special get-togethers with big groups of family can help you find a workable solution that allows your child to spend time with their loved ones during this important time of year.
- Splitting a holiday – While some parents may choose to alternate major holidays, others may find it possible to split holidays or the days before and after major holidays. This is often the case when children have longer breaks from school (i.e. winter break), and when parents live close enough, plan well enough, and are able to share a tighter schedule, such as splitting Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, or splitting the holiday break in half. Find what works best your kids.
- Organization – Being organized can help minimize disruption and the potential for disagreement and dispute between parents. Consider ways you and the other parent can stay organized about special holiday parenting schedules to ensure shared parenting time is as seamless as possible for the children. You may be fine with written or communicated plans, or may want to use a custody calendar so it’s easy to see when a child is to be with each parent.
- Court-ordered schedules – Ohio family courts encourage parents to work as a team when it comes to creating a workable custody and holiday schedule. If you and the other parent agree to a custom schedule, you can use whatever plan you want. However, that may not always be possible in every case, particularly when there are vehement disputes, issues of domestic violence, or concerns from either parent about potential arrangements that are not in the best interests of the child. In these situations, the court may have to implement a schedule based on County guidelines and the facts of a case, decide on petitions for child custody modifications filed by either parent, rule on requested protection orders, or initiate enforcement actions. For parents who are separated but not yet divorced, a temporary custody order can be sought to ensure a plan while the divorce is pending.
Grossman Law Offices: 40+ Years Serving Families Across Columbus & Ohio
The holidays are a special time of year for children, which is why co-parenting and a carefully planned holiday schedule is one of the greatest gifts parents can give their kids. If you have questions about child custody and parenting plans, temporary orders or modifications, or any other divorce or family law matter, our award-winning attorneys and OSBA Board Certified Family Relations Law Specialists are available to discuss your situation and what we can do to help.
To speak with Columbus divorce attorney about your needs, call (614) 344-4311 or contact us online.