An article on the GoodMenProject website titled “The Divorced Parents’ Guide to a Drama-Free Christmas”, is one of many that provide good and compassionate advice on how survive what it calls “Divorce-mas”, meaning the “the Christmas time when you are a single parent”. The advocated child-focused approach is certainly a worthwhile one: it is premised on the essential principle “Kids first. It’s all about them.”
As wise as it is, if you are a parent who is divorced it can be a hard concept to remember, particularly when the entire year preceding the holidays has been filled with acrimony, vindictiveness and strife between you and your Ex.
From a legal standpoint, your individual custody and access schedule – whether imposed by court order or negotiated (either formally or informally) – will set out the precise details around who-spends-how-much-time with the children. However, there are some more subtle, esoteric, and highly-personal aspects to navigating the holiday season. Here are three tips:
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- Make plans in advance. The earlier you and your Ex make plans, the better it will go. Early planning allows for you, your children, and extended family members to make arrangements and possibly anticipate problems. And with a healthy lead-time and an early view of how things should unfold, it may even be possible for you and your Ex to accommodate each other in the event the proposed plans later end up falling short of the ideal.
- Focus on the specifics. Your formal custody and access schedule will set out the days (and usually the exact times) that the children are to switch from one parent to the other. However, it may be necessary to fine-tune these schedules even further – and to possibly build in room for flexibility and unseen contingencies – so that frustration and dispute is minimized. And confirm everything in advance, to avoid misunderstanding.
- Stick to the schedule. Especially around the holidays, we Family Law lawyers see and hear about many unfortunate situations involving parents who fail to adhere to agreed or court-mandated holiday custody schedules, which necessitates the other parent having to make frantic last-minute calls to their lawyer to see what can be done to get the children returned. This is not only disruptive, but it cast a severe pall on the joyfulness of the season; it is only the children who will suffer most.
- Anticipate your kid-free time. Particularly if this is your first year as a separated parent, it’s important to make plans of your own for those times when the children are with the other parent. Stay busy, do some travel, socialize with similarly-situated (and positive-minded) friends…. Anything to stave off boredom and potential loneliness.
As a separated or divorced parent, how do you cope with the holidays? Do you have last-minute questions about how to make it the best season possible? Contact us for a consultation.
And happy holidays, to all!