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Keeping the Holidays Happy — Child Custody and Access Tips

We all want to have the idyllic holiday season:  picture-perfect family gatherings, children playing merrily, chestnuts roasting by an open fire.

But in all-too-many Canadian households, the picture is less than perfect because the ongoing conflict between separated and divorced parents is actually heightened at this time of year.  There may be struggles over how and for how long each parent has the children, how the “key” dates such as Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve should be split between parents and extended family, and how any travel plans to visit extended family should be worked in to the existing custody/access scheme.

Here are some suggestions for making the holidays as stress-free as possible under the circumstances.

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1)  Focus on making the holidays as happy as possible for your kids.   Holidays, and the traditions that are part of them, are significant events in the lives of children.  Ideally, they should be filled with happy memories of quality time with family.  Try to optimize communication while leaving the conflict behind, at least for the time being.

 2) Be sensitive to your kids’ feelings.    Children may have their own wishes and preferences around the holidays, and when spending time apart their longing for the other parent may be heightened. Although not all of these wishes and periods of longing can be accommodated, both parents should acknowledge the children’s feelings and adapt for them whenever possible.   For example, parents can promote contact with the other parent through phone contact or Skype where it will help the children adjust to out-of-the-ordinary periods of separation.

3) Be flexible wherever possible.  Although your custody and access arrangements may be set out by way of a negotiated agreement or by court order, it is nonetheless important for both of you as parents to be as flexible as possible within the confines of those pre-determined arrangements.  Especially at this time of year, It is vital that as parents to maintain the focus on what is in the best interests of your children, and to put less focus on insisting on strict legal rights.

Happy Holidays from all the staff of Shulman Law Firm.

Shulman Law Firm is a Toronto-area firm of experienced Family Lawyers who can provide practical advice and effective representation relating to the steps and processes involved in separating and getting divorced in Ontario.   Contact us to set up a consultation.

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