Combine the general stress of the holidays with a recent divorce and custody battle, and you have a recipe for a less-than-jolly season. While the post-divorce holidays may be different, they don’t have to be stressful. No matter what you and your former spouse disagree on, you are likely both in agreement that you want a happy, low-stress holiday for your children.
If you’ve been searching for a guide that explains how to co-parent during the holidays, this article is for you. Our family law attorneys have outlined seven tips for co-parenting during the holiday season that will, hopefully, make your family’s holiday a little brighter this year.
1.) Put Your Child(ren) First
You and your former spouse may disagree on a lot of things. Maybe your divorce was difficult, and your custody agreement was highly controversial. No matter the state of things surrounding your separation circumstances, it’s likely that you and your spouse still want the best for your children. During the holidays, it’s advisable to remember that your children’s best interests should come first. It’s in the best interest of the children to co-parent amicably. While this can be easier said than done, it is not impossible. Cut down on arguing, encourage your children to spend time with their other parent, and refrain from disparaging your former spouse in front of your children.
2.) Review Your Parenting Plan
Take another look at your initial parenting plan. The original agreement was likely drafted with your lawyer or a mediator who considered both the custody laws of Illinois and your unique family situation. Of course, changes and last-minute requests will come up, but use your original custody agreement as a baseline. This agreement typically outlines alternations of dates, holidays, etc., between parents. Double-check the schedule before going into the busyness of the holidays so that you, your former spouse, and your children are all on the same page. This will drastically reduce frustration and tension that get in the way of the holiday spirit.
3.) Plan in Advance By Creating a Holiday Schedule
One way to cut down on confusion, misunderstandings, and arguments when co-parenting is to create a schedule, especially for the holidays, and stand by it. Remember that the holiday plan will take precedence over the regular visitation plan, so make sure you account for every detail in your schedule and your former spouse’s schedule. Having a set plan allows both you and your child’s other parent to make holiday plans with your children and extended family, decreasing potential disagreements and conflict. Additionally, it provides a sense of stability and security for your child(ren). There are multiple ways to celebrate the holidays with your kids, depending on your specific situation. Here are a few ideas to create your co-parenting holiday schedule:
- Spending the holidays together;
- Alternating days; for example, dividing even-numbered days and odd-numbered days;
- Splitting the holiday evenly;
- Alternating holidays yearly;
- Use your initial parenting plan as a baseline to create your holiday plan;
- Deciding in advance which holidays child(ren) will spend with each parent.
4.) Anticipate Issues and Be Flexible
While the allocation judgment will anticipate many issues that may arise over the holidays, it’s impossible to predict everything that could potentially happen. Common problems to include in your co-parenting schedule are winter break considerations and last-minute change requests. Considering what to do in these circumstances is advisable with the extra non-school time and inevitable holiday event uncertainty. Often the agreement will state that each parent will get half of the winter break. However, the exact dates or days will not be outlined because of the natural fluctuation school breaks have. Allocated holidays will also interfere with the winter break schedule.
5. Communicate Effectively
Clear, prompt, and efficient communication is a must, especially during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. As mentioned above, sitting down with your former partner to create a plan is advisable, but don’t stop communication there. When unexpected events happen, technology makes it possible for us to communicate on the go. It also allows us to communicate in written form, which is always the better option. Sending a text or email eliminates confusion and excuses later.
If significant or long-term changes need to be made to your agreement, doing so in writing is the best bet. While non-written changes may carry some weight in family court, written communication formally establishes the obligations of both parties, which helps to create accountability and eliminates finger-pointing and confusion going forward. A written co-parenting agreement may protect both parties from frivolous legal action.
6. Think About Sharing the Holidays Together
This isn’t an option for everyone, but sometimes co-parenting families continue to spend the holidays together. Suppose you and your ex-spouse can spend time together without arguments amicably. In that case, there are a lot of benefits to continuing to spend significant holidays together as a family:
- The children can spend more time with both parents;
- There is less disruption in your children’s lives;
- There are fewer arguments over the time and days allocated to each parent;
- Having the whole family around during the holiday may create a happier environment for the children;
- Your family can continue to make shared holiday memories;
- It can reinforce that you will always be a family no matter what happens.
While this strategy is not for everyone, especially for some newly divorced parents, it can come with many benefits. If your divorce has been amicable, sharing the holidays may be an option to consider.
7.) Acknowledge Things Are Different and Make New Traditions
This tip may be the most difficult for recently divorced parents. It may be a hurdle to accept that things are different, especially during significant holidays. However, accepting that things are inevitably not the same provides room to create new holiday traditions with your family that you and your children will cherish. Acknowledging that the holidays will be different going forward also provides a space for you and your family to process difficult emotions and lean on each other in challenging times.
Frequently Asked Questions About Co-Parenting for the Holidays
Are you trying to navigate the ups and downs of co-parenting during the holiday season? You are not alone, and our clients come to us with the same questions you have. To help you better prepare for a holiday after divorce, here are a few frequently asked questions answered by our experienced and trusted family law attorneys at Peskind Law Firm.
How can I effectively co-parent during the holidays?
Effective co-parenting during everyday life and the holidays are more than possible. Some tips that may create a more seamless co-parenting strategy are; understanding and reviewing your custody agreement with all involved, being flexible when change or last-minute requests happen, communicating effectively with your former spouse and children, creating new traditions, and planning how holidays will look going forward in terms of time allocation.
Remember that you’re both doing this for your children. Putting arguments aside for the sake of them will go a long way towards successful holiday co-parenting.
Should divorced parents spend the holidays together?
Whether you and your ex-spouse should spend the holidays together depends on the nature of your current relationship. If your divorce was amicable, you can put disagreements aside, and you both agree a shared holiday is best for your kids. Continuing to spend holidays together may benefit the entire family. However, if you cannot put differences aside, it may be best to avoid the other parent as much as possible, especially during the holidays.
How should divorced parents split holiday festivities?
There are several strategies available to help parents divide holiday time with their children. Your original parenting plan likely outlines this to a certain extent. However, if you are in the beginning stages of creating your agreement, or you are contemplating amendments to it, there are some tips to consider, including:
- Alternating odd-numbered and even-numbered days during the holiday season
- Alternating priority holidays by year; one parent gets Thanksgiving, and the other parent gets Christmas
- Determining in advance which holidays each parent will spend with their children
- Splitting holidays evenly; one parent gets the morning, the other parent gets the afternoon, etc
Peskind Law Firm is Here to Help Your Family
The holiday season after a divorce does not have to be bleak. There are multiple strategies to try to make significant days and everyday life work post-divorce. Unfortunately, some divorces are more complex than others. If you are having a challenging time getting on the same page with your former spouse, we are here to help. We’ll help you create a holiday custody schedule that works for the entire family. We approach every case with your child as the priority. To help you develop a successful co-parenting plan, give us a call at 630-444-0701.