It’s [Not] the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Co-Parenting through the Holidays:
For many, the thought of the upcoming holidays brings dread, rather than glee. If you are stuck in an unhappy marriage, or strained relationship with the parent of your children, you are likely not enthusiastically counting down the days to the holiday season.
In my years practicing family law, my office gets quite busy this time of year, with new clients who refuse to endure another horrible holiday season, and watch their children suffer under the strain of a failed relationship. I understand the pressure of trying to fake happiness through a holiday, when you are stuck in an impossible relationship. I also understand the heartbreak of trying to make your children happy, while you are miserable beneath the façade. Too often, in this scenario, parents fight in front of kids and the enormous stress is felt by everyone.
Parents may be reluctant to begin the divorce and/or shared parenting process on the cusp of the holidays. However, there really is no better time to create lasting change, when family is the most important focus of the season.
Co-Parenting Schedules for the Holidays
The two most important factors to keep in mind are: planning a holiday schedule ahead of the holidays, and being in tune with your children’s needs for familiarity of tradition and a stress free holiday schedule.
New clients have numerous questions about parenting apart during the holidays. The most pressing question is: “will I see my kids during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s?” The answer is “yes!” Courts prefer to have children spend near equal time with each parent during the holidays, if time and distance so allow. There are a number of schedules that separating/divorcing parents can implement to share holiday time with their children.
You can agree to alternate holidays annually, such as the following schedule:
|Thanksgiving from 10 AM to 8:00 PM||Even-numbered years||Odd-numbered years|
|Christmas Eve from 10 AM until Christmas morning at 10 AM||Odd-numbered years||Even-numbered years|
|Christmas Day from 10 AM until 12/ 26 at 10 AM||Even-numbered years||Odd-numbered years|
|New Year’s Eve from 10 AM until New Year’s morning at 10 AM||Odd-numbered years||Even-numbered years|
|New Year’s Day from 10 AM until 1/2 at 10:00 AM||Even-numbered years||Odd-numbered years|
You can also agree to divide time by hours, on each holiday, such as the following schedule:
|Thanksgiving||Every from 10 AM to 4:00 PM||Every from 4:00 PM until 10 AM the day after Thanksgiving|
|Christmas Eve until Christmas morning||Every from 4:00 PM until 10 AM on 12/25||Every from 10 AM to 4:00 PM|
|Christmas Day||Every until 10 AM||Every from 10 AM until 10 AM on 12/26|
|New Year’s Eve||Every from 4:00 PM on 12/31 until 10 AM on 1/1||Every from 10 AM until 4 PM on 12/31|
|New Year’s Day||Every until 10 AM||Every from 10 AM until 10 AM on 1/2|
The third option is to divide school breaks, or blocks of holiday time (if your children are not school aged) in alternating years, such as the following schedule:
|Thanksgiving Break from the day school lets out (or day before Thanksgiving) until day school recommences (or Monday following Thanksgiving)||In even-numbered years, from the day school lets out (or the day before Thanksgiving) at 10 AM until Thanksgiving at 4 PM
In odd-numbered years from Thanksgiving at 4 PM through Monday morning when school recommences or 9 AM
|In odd-numbered years , from the day school lets out (or the day before Thanksgiving) at 10 AM until Thanksgiving at 4 PM
In even-numbered years from Thanksgiving at 4 PM through Monday morning when school recommences or 9 AM
|Christmas Break: from day school lets out (or 12/22) until the day school recommences (or 1/3)||In odd-numbered years, from day school lets out until 12/26 at 10 AM
In even-numbered years, from 12/26 at 10 AM until the day school recommences or 1/3 at 10 AM
|In even-numbered years from day school lets out until 12/26 at 10 AM
In odd-numbered years, from 12/26 at 10 AM until the day school recommences or 1/3 at 10 AM
Which Plan Is Right for Your Family?
In order to determine which schedule will work best for your family, you need to think about family traditions, and what is most important to your children. Does your spouse have family in town that always host Christmas Eve Dinner? Does your spouse really enjoy playing Santa Claus on Christmas Eve? For some of my clients, Thanksgiving Break is a priority, as they usually take their children hunting during the last weekend of open season. You want to create a plan that allows your children the greatest benefit during each day or hour of the special day.
Parents who share custody of their children do have to compromise and sacrifice for the sake of the children. If you are unable to negotiate the exact parenting schedule you wish, and let’s say you miss out on Thanksgiving for a year, keep in mind that children love celebrating everyday. Maybe you prepare a special meal for your children on the day after or Sunday after Thanksgiving that year, keeping in mind that you will have the children the following year for Thanksgiving.
The Judnich Law Office Can Help
While all of this may seem overwhelming, I have drafted tons of parenting plans and can easily guide you through developing a proposed holiday schedule that will meet your family’s needs. If you cannot reach agreement with the other side, I am also experienced at successfully negotiating holiday schedules, or requesting emergency court hearings to implement a holiday schedule.
And, while all of this may seem sad and stressful, remember that there is no worse feeling than feeling alone in a room full of people, or facing down enormous relationship stress during the most stressful time of year.
Make an early New Year’s resolution and consider your options, and your children’s options, for a less stressful and more meaningful holiday season this year. There is simply no reason, if the marriage is over, to let another holiday season be destroyed.
Give us a call at (406) 203-0913 or contact us online to set up your initial consultation. It’s free and it’s always confidential.