The holidays can be an especially challenging time for those going through a divorce or a custody dispute. Even amicable parents can be challenged to remain civil when they won’t get to see their child on Christmas Day or get to take their child to a holiday family gathering. Here are some tips for custody challenges during the holidays.
Custody Challenges During the Holidays
Focus on the child’s perspective.
While you may feel sad and at a loss, if your child is not with you on Christmas morning to open presents, your child may have a different perspective. Getting to open presents on Christmas morning with one parent and then again, the next day with the other parent may be seen as an advantage to a child whose parents aren’t together anymore. Knowing that your child is okay with the situation may make you feel more okay too. Encourage your child to see the positive sides of the child’s situation and you may feel more positive too.
Focus less on calendar dates.
There is nothing that says celebrating Christmas Day on an actual day makes your family time anymore special than if you celebrate the holiday on a different calendar day. You may be surprised at how much “Christmas” can feel just as special even if celebrated on a different calendar day. Your child is less likely to care about the actual calendar date than you are.
Have a clearly written parenting plan.
A clear parenting plan can go a long way in preventing conflicts between parents during the holidays. The parenting plan should be clear about the days and the times of exchanges for holidays as well as how the holiday time affects the regular parenting time. For example, does the regular weekend schedule change if the holiday schedule causes one parent to have two weekends in a row? If the parenting plan regarding holidays is not clear, it may be time to file a modification action and meet with a mediator to create a more clear parenting plan.
Review the holiday time with the other parent well before the holidays.
A clear parenting plan makes it easier for a parent to predict their parenting time and coordinate holiday time with extended family well in advance of the holiday. It doesn’t help much if the other parent’s interpretation is different than yours. Check-in with the other parent to make sure their understanding of the holiday time is the same as yours before purchasing plane tickets or setting the date for an extended family gathering. Do so well in advance of the holidays so you have time to contact an attorney or put the issue before the Court if there is a dispute.
Start new traditions. Don’t be afraid to start new traditions for yourself and for your child.
If you have time off work and no time with your child for that holiday, think about setting a new tradition for yourself. Travel to a place you wouldn’t take a child. Volunteer at a soup kitchen on the holiday. Make plans with friends that also don’t have children for the holiday.
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While the holidays can be a challenging time for parents going through a divorce or custody dispute, with the right mindset and some pre-planning, the holidays can be an enjoyable time of year. If you have custody or divorce questions and reside in Omaha, Nebraska or the surrounding areas (Papillion, Gretna, Bellevue, Sarpy, Lincoln, etc), please contact our office for a free consultation.