With the holiday season upon us, this time is not always joyful for separated parents that share custody over their children. It can be one of the most difficult times of the year. Balancing your desires to share the holiday with your child, the other parent’s desires and the desires of your children can quickly turn a joyous season into a headache. Below are some tips on how to successfully navigate the holidays for a peaceful and happy celebration.
- Remind yourself that it’s about your children. It’s ok to have your own desires, but remember that as a parent your child’s happiness comes first. In California, the Court’s overriding principal in making child custody orders is what is in the “best interest of the child”. You should have this principal to guide your decisions as well.
- Respect your child’s relationship with the other parent. The California legislature has chosen to codify the belief that in most cases it is in the best interests of the child for them to have full and frequent contact with the other parent. Sharing the holidays isn’t about respecting the parent but instead it’s about respecting your child’s need for a relationship with the other parent. Try and be flexible with the other parent’s schedule and encourage your children to participate.
- Establish a holiday schedule early. The best way to avoid holiday custody disputes is to establish a holiday custody schedule early on. Come to an agreement with the other parent over how to share the holidays with your children and have an attorney help you make it a court order. Having a preset holiday visitation order can help set expectations early and allow everyone involved to plan ahead.
- Make new traditions. Most everyone has holiday traditions that they grew up with as a child. Unless your traditions involved sharing the holidays between two different parents you are most likely going to make some new ones. Maybe this means that every year you have your Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve and the other parent celebrates with your child on Christmas Day. Traditions are what you choose to make and may need to be modified in order to accommodate the other parent.
- Be Flexible. Having a custody order helps provide stability for your child, but there will come times when either you or the other parent will want to modify the arrangement to accommodate something special. Making a modification request early and your flexibility in responding to the other parent’s requests is key in avoiding the Courts. If you are faced with an intractable parent who won’t accommodate your reasonable request, being able to point to a time when you did accommodate may go a long way toward getting a judge to side with you.
Hope these tips bring divorced and/or separated parents piece of mind accommodating to one another’s schedule this holiday season.
- James Steinle, Family Law Attorney