The holidays do not feel the same when you cannot share them with your children. But when you share custody with another parent, you need to find ways to compromise over your parenting plans for the holidays.
You should consider many practical, financial, and emotional factors. You should also have a plan in mind if you and your co-parent cannot agree on a plan for co-parenting during the holidays.
Your first consideration is how you will arrive at a parenting plan with your co-parent. If you have sole custody, the other party may have more limited time around the holidays.
If you have joint custody, you and your co-parent will need to compromise on a parenting plan. Usually, this means you and your co-parent will each propose a plan and try to iron out any differences, but typically holidays are equally shared or alternated between both parents. A parenting plan attorney can explain your rights under your custody order if you have any questions.
You should also consider cost and time as you prepare your plan. Paying for your children to travel back and forth between you and your co-parent can become costly. You might want to arrange your schedule so your children’s travel plans minimize costs.
Time could also be a factor. You and your co-parent will both want time with your children. But your children have limited time off from school during the holidays. You may need to compromise so you do not waste too much of their valuable vacation.
Factors Affecting Your Children
You should put a high priority on your children’s interests. You want to avoid creating negative feelings about the holidays or the other parent by making your children feel like pawns. At the same time, they will need to understand that both parents want to spend time with them.
Talk to your children and find out what is important to them. Try to craft a plan that accommodates their preferences.
Considerations Affecting You
You have wants and needs surrounding the holidays too. If you feel strongly about cooking a Thanksgiving meal for your children, make your feelings known to your co-parent. Just be prepared to compromise to get the schedule you prefer.
Your Co-parent’s Considerations
At the same time, your co-parent will also have preferences and considerations. Unless you think your co-parent is acting in bad faith to try to thwart your plans, try to accommodate their interests–as it will likely benefit your children.
You will do this for two reasons. First, compromising will allow you to avoid the time and expense of fighting in court. Second, keeping peace in the family might earn you points with your children and your co-parent in the future, while also showing the Court your ability to foster a relationship. For example, if you give up spending some of Christmas week with your children so the other parent can travel to see family, you might have leverage to get Thanksgiving or another holiday.
Resolving Disputes Involving Co-parenting During the Holidays
If compromise is impossible, you may need to follow the dispute resolution procedure in your custody order. First, you need to work with a parenting plan attorney to determine exactly what your custody order says. It may address holiday schedules and resolve disputes over them.
Second, you and your co-parent can communicate through your lawyers to try to reach a compromise. Experienced lawyers can often craft a creative solution that you and your co-parent might have overlooked.
Finally, the custody order will include a formal process for solving disputes, such as mediation, arbitration, or a court hearing. These processes can take time and money. They can also create hard feelings between the parents. But you must follow them to protect your rights and avoid stepping on your co-parent’s rights.
Arriving at a Fair Outcome
Co-parenting during the holidays causes some of the most common disputes between parents. Take a long view of your holiday parenting plan. You will deal with your co-parent until your children reach adulthood. Working with them now could smooth your holiday arrangements for years to come.