Working the holidays into your child custody arrangement

The holidays can be a difficult time of year for Missouri families who are going through child custody disputes and for those parents who share custody of their children. No one wants to be away from their children during the holidays, and most divorced parents do not want to continue celebrating traditions together as a family after the split.

Many St. Louis parents may wonder how to best handle holiday schedules.

If you are currently in the process of coming up with a child custody arrangement, it can be wise to discuss holiday plans and schedules now. Making these decisions in advance, during child custody planning, can help prevent misunderstandings and arguments down the line. It is difficult for many parents to let go of spending times like Thanksgiving Day and Christmas morning with their children, but addressing these issues early and in the spirit of cooperation can help families come up with new, post-divorce traditions.

Some families that celebrate Christmas might decide that one parent should spend Christmas Eve with the children every year, while the other parent has the kids on Christmas Day. Or perhaps this should rotate year to year, or alternate with Thanksgiving.

When making these decisions, parents should consider the traditions favored by their children. If the children always spent the first day of Hanukkah with the father’s side of the family, perhaps this should continue. And, if the children always baked cookies with mom on Christmas Eve, they would probably want to continue doing this. It can be important to give kids a voice and to maintain traditions when it is reasonable to do so.

On the other hand, parents should not be scared to start new holiday traditions after divorce. For example, if your ex has the kids for Thanksgiving, why not start a new annual tradition of “Second Thanksgiving.” Hold it one week later, invite extended family and make it a game night, for example. This can be a new fun event to look forward to year after year.

All families are unique and parents should talk to their family law attorneys about including holiday schedules in their child custody planning. Including intentional holiday plans in a child custody order can help minimize stress and conflict throughout holidays to come.

Source: Huffington Post, “He Got Christmas,” Margaret Klaw, Dec. 9, 2013.

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