Managing a Shared Custodial Agreement during the Holidays
If this is your first holiday season after a divorce, you may find it to be a painful time. For many divorcees, the reality of a split doesn’t really sink in until the holidays arrive. If you share children with an ex-spouse, this season can be even more painful and difficult to navigate. While challenging, there are ways to make the holidays more pleasant both for you and for your children. Read on to learn about ways that you can make the holidays a fun and joyful time for your children.
If you’ve already finalized your divorce, you have likely received a custody-sharing agreement that includes a section on how the holidays will be divided between you and your ex. If you aren’t yet officially divorced, or are only in a separation period with your spouse, you may not have had the advantage of a mediated discussion about where your children will be on the holidays, nor a court order which you can legally enforce dictating which parent will have the children on the holidays themselves. This sort of informality can lead to ongoing fights which pick up again each time you see your ex to hand off your children, or to screaming matches over the phone, either of which your children may witness.
If one parent threatens to withhold the children on days where you had already reached a different arrangement, you might feel tempted to approach the family court to obtain a court order demanding that your ex comply. Throwing yourself into a courtroom battle right before the holidays will only serve to make the time miserable and acrimonious for you and for your children, and leave them feeling more than ever that they must choose a side between you and their other parent. Seeing their parents fight each time they meet will sap the pleasure and joy out of the holidays for your kids. Nevertheless, take careful note of your former spouse’s noncompliance with court orders to present to the judge in future proceedings after the holidays.
Instead of fighting a battle to the death to have your kids on the actual holiday, just celebrate twice! Even married couples have multiple branches of extended family members and in-laws to visit on a holiday. Speak with your extended family about having a special holiday gathering the day before or after the big day, so that, even if it’s a day or two late, your children can participate in your family’s traditions and spend time with those relatives, strengthening your children’s sense of family after the stress of a divorce. Plus, no kid has ever objected to twice as many presents or cookies.