The holidays can be hard on everyone after divorce, but especially for the kids. It is important as a parent to create a custody arrangement that is in your children’s best interests year-round, including major holidays. Working with your spouse to compromise on difficult custody decisions can help your family stay out of the courtroom and avoid a lengthy trial. It can also give you the opportunity to both get something you want, rather than one or both parties losing out. Avoiding conflict can make a difficult divorce more comfortable for children.
Spend Holidays Together
The best-case scenario for many children is to continue spending the holidays with both parents. It may be hard, especially for the first couple of years, for children to enjoy major holidays with one parent missing. Studies have shown most children who grow up with both parents fare better than children of divorce, except in situations involving marital violence. If divorce is inevitable, you and your spouse may at least be able to make the holidays easier by spending them together for the kids’ sake.
Alternate Each Year
If holidays with your ex are not possible or in the best interests of the children, try alternating the holidays each year. For example, one parent can have the kids for Christmas on the odd years and the other on the even years. Within a year, you and your spouse can also alternate each holiday. If your spouse will have the kids for Thanksgiving, for instance, you will have them for Christmas. Working out an alternating pattern for each year and each holiday means you will not miss the same holiday with your kids two years in a row.
Split the Day in Half
Many couples find success in splitting the holidays in half. The children spend the first half of the day with one parent and the second half with the other. This type of arrangement will work best if you and your spouse live close together unless one of you is willing to travel closer to the kids on the day of the holiday to make it work. Try not to make the kids spend the holiday traveling, but rather create an arrangement in which you or your spouse will do the traveling. Splitting the day in half may work best for tricky holidays, such as a child’s birthday.
Pick and Choose
Some couples have different priorities when it comes to holidays. Your spouse may have special holiday traditions at Christmas, for example, while Easter might be the most important holiday to you. You and your spouse may be able to agree upon which holidays are the most important to spend with the kids. You may get lucky and agree on certain holidays with each parent every year. This could make your custody agreement easier to manage, as well as benefit the kids by keeping the same holiday routine year after year.
Sometimes, one parent can use holidays with the kids as leverage during divorce settlement arrangements. For example, you may be able to convince your spouse to let you have the kids for a few weeks every summer if you give him or her custody during a few major holidays. Work with your spouse to try to come up with a compromise that works for both of you. Otherwise, your divorce case may have to go to court – resulting in a judge deciding on custody arrangements, parenting time and holiday visitation for you.
Get Professional Help
You have more negotiation options than just working something out with your spouse or going to court. If you can get your spouse to agree, you can both attend mediation with or without attorneys. Mediation leaves you in control of your custody arrangement but involves an unbiased third party to help you and your spouse make decisions. If you are struggling to agree on custody arrangements for the holidays, mediation could be the answer.