Holidays are especially difficult when divorce has separated a family. The holidays are the time of year when families enjoy spending quality time together. When parents are divorced, or going through a divorce and still working out the logistics of co-parenting and time-sharing, the holidays can be especially trying. The children find themselves in a situation where they want to spend time with both parents and be a family, and the family unit as it once was no longer exists.
If you and your spouse are divorced or in the middle of a divorce, try to remember that these are some important things that will help everyone get through the holidays with the least amount of stress:
1. The best interests of the children should come first – no matter what. It is hard as a parent to be selfless when you are negotiating how to split the holidays with another parent. Always first and foremost – consider what it is in the best interests of the child. Make the sacrifice of what you want and think about what the child wants. If hours or travel are involved to split the time with the child, consider that spending hours of the holiday traveling is not in the best interests of a 5 year old.
2. Communication is key. Don’t wait until 2 days before Christmas to discuss with the other parent how the child will spend the holidays, where and with whom. You will feel stressed out and pressured to work out something because Christmas is 2 days away and you want time with your child. Decisions made under those circumstances are never the best for anyone. Share your thoughts concerning the holidays with the other parent well in advance, while there is still time to work out arrangements that will fit everyone’s schedule and be the least traumatic for the child.
3. Be open-minded for the sake of the child. Both parents would, of course, like to spend each holiday with the child. Compromise is often difficult unless both parents are open minded and willing to compromise. If a lot of travel is involved that will take time away from the holiday with each parent, consider working out a time-sharing schedule where the holidays are alternated annually. One parent could have the child for Thanksgiving week and the other for Christmas week. The following year, the schedule could be alternated. Be flexible with the co-parent and if times or dates need to be changed, work something out that everyone can agree with and that is the least upsetting to the child.
4. Plan Ahead. Be prepared for the negotiation of time-sharing over the holidays. Consult with an attorney who can advise you of your rights prior to agreeing to a holiday time-share schedule.
5. Counseling. Co-Parenting and raising a child in two different households is the primary challenge for parents. If both parents are unable to work out an arrangement on time-sharing and co-parenting, not just over the holidays, think about going to counseling, either individually or together, to evaluate other options that might be available to resolve any issues.
Remember, your children are affected by your ability to make co-parenting and timesharing work. It will be a smoother and easier transition if you know your rights and always keep the best interest of the child at the forefront.
Attorney Chris E. Ragano, Principle Attorney for North Tampa Legal Group, is a marital and family law attorney with over 20 years experience handling contested dissolution and post-dissolution cases. If you want to learn more about your rights, or need assistance to work out a time-sharing or co-parenting arrangement with your spouse, please call our office at 813-254-2273 to schedule a consultation.
Authored by Elizabeth Miller, Office Administrator for North Tampa Legal Group