The “most wonderful time of year” for recently divorced parents can seem like the most stressful time of year. Navigating a multitude of family changes, complex custody schedules, and confusing emotions, the holiday season can be downright dreaded for some recent divorcees. While navigating this time of year can feel overwhelming, remember that you are not alone, as many parents have been in your shoes. Our family law attorneys at Peskind Law Firm have written this article to provide some tips to effectively navigate the holidays after a divorce, like co-parenting and creating a holiday custody schedule that works for your entire family. By keeping these few strategies top of mind, you and your family can have a happy holiday season even after divorce.
Take Another Look at Your Custody Agreement
Your original parenting plan can be a good baseline arrangement for the holiday season. Illinois law requires an initial parenting plan to be drafted and approved by a judge. This original agreement was likely drafted with the help of an Illinois divorce lawyer or mediator who understood the child custody laws in Illinois and your specific family situation, so it’s an excellent place to start when going into the hectic holiday season. Some parents choose to stick to the agreement entirely, and some parents opt to create a special schedule for the holidays, depending on their specific circumstances. No matter what you and your former spouse decide to do, make sure you know exactly what the original agreement outlines, then review it again with all involved. From there, you can develop a holiday schedule as needed, and everyone will be on the same page.
Have a Plan and Stick to It
No matter what you and your ex decide to do for the holidays, make a plan and stick to it. While last-minute changes do happen, making a habit of flying by the seat of your pants during the holidays may cause confusion and arguments. It’s advisable to sit down with your former spouse at the beginning of the year and review the holidays and events together to decide what’s best for your children and what works for your schedules. Here are some things to consider when determining your holiday parenting plan:
- Specific holidays – Are there specific holidays that one parent celebrates? For example, does Dad’s family celebrate Hanukkah, while Mom’s family celebrates Christmas?
- Holiday festivities – Does either side do a holiday brunch, photos with Santa, or another special event?
- Extended family members – Will grandparents or other relatives be coming into town?
- Winter break considerations – How long will winter break be, what events will happen during that time, how will time be allocated to each parent?
- Holiday travel – Does either parent have travel plans and wish to bring the kids along? Does either parent live out of state?
- Holiday gifts – How will gifts be distributed? Which parent will get which specific gifts? How will holiday shopping be done?
Set Realistic Expectations
Having a set holiday plan is great, but be sure to set realistic expectations. Don’t just plan for the best-case scenario. Things will come up, issues will present themselves, and schedule changes will happen – make sure to plan accordingly. Here are some things to consider when setting the right level of expectations in your parenting plan:
- Acknowledge that things will not be the same as they were before the divorce.
- Note that last-minute holiday changes may come up, and think about what you might do if this happens. It’s a good idea to be as flexible as possible.
- Don’t neglect your emotions. Holidays after divorce can be emotionally challenging, especially for newly divorced parents. Make sure you acknowledge your feelings and let the children know their feelings about the situation are perfectly normal and valid.
- Plan for bad weather. The holidays can come with a host of unexpected weather conditions, which may delay festivities and travel. Be sure to have a plan if this happens.
The saying “hope for the best, plan for the worst” may come in handy during the holiday season after divorce. Be forgiving and kind to yourself and your former spouse. The unexpected will undoubtedly happen at some point, so be as prepared and flexible as you can be. If you’re having trouble creating a realistic co-parenting plan, our attorneys can help you determine the best course of action for your circumstances.
Practice Effective Communication
One of the most common problems family law attorneys see with their clients is a lack of communication. Not having effective and efficient communication can tear any co-parenting plan to shreds. Be sure to discuss important topics with your former partner; don’t put a topic on the back burner to discuss “at a better time.” The chances are that a “better time” won’t happen before a heated argument arises.
Use technology to your advantage, too. With text, email, and call, we can convey any detail with a touch of our finger. Additionally, remember that having details and changes in writing is always a good idea. Having any agreed-upon changes saved in your inbox will help reduce confusion, disagreements, and overall frustration.
IL Divorce Attorney Tip – While non-written details may sometimes hold up in family court, it’s always best to have changes documented in written form. Having a written co-parenting contract will let everyone know their obligations and cut down on confusion and contention in the future.
Create New Holiday Traditions
Accept that things will not be the same after a divorce. Old traditions may not be possible now, and that’s ok. Make sure to note your emotions and realize they are natural. Your children will also have emotions about the situation, and seeing you acknowledge your feelings will let them know it’s normal and valid to have feelings. Know that while old traditions may not be possible, creating new traditions with your children is possible. Maybe the other parent always lit the tree or always made gingerbread cookies with the kids. Instead of trying to recreate those traditions, seek out new ones. What traditions have your kids always wanted to try? What traditions have you always wanted to try? Make new memories while acknowledging the old ones.
Frequently Asked Questions About Handling Divorce During the Holidays
Again, you are not alone in the challenges of navigating the holidays after a divorce, and many of our clients have experienced the same questions you have. Our family law attorneys have answered a few frequently asked questions below to help you create a holiday strategy that works for your family.
How can divorced parents make the holiday season pleasant for their children?
Remember to put your children first in any and all decisions made while acknowledging that things will be different. Acknowledge that practicing old traditions may not be possible this year, but creating new traditions is possible. Additionally, having a set plan will ensure the kids have stability, especially during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.
Should divorced parents spend Christmas together?
It depends. If your divorce was amicable and you’re able to spend time with your former spouse without arguments and tension, continuing to spend the holidays together is an option that works for some families. However, if you and your ex cannot agree, tend to argue, and have had a heated divorce, it’s best to spend as little time as possible together during the holidays. The decision should be made according to your specific situation and what’s best for your children.
Who gets the kids for the holidays after a divorce?
Your child custody agreement will outline each parents’ time allocation, including holidays in most situations. There are several options to consider in terms of splitting significant holidays between parents. Some examples include:
- Spending the holidays together;
- Alternating days, like dividing even-numbered days and odd-numbered days;
- Splitting the holiday evenly;
- Alternate holidays yearly;
- Dividing holidays based on a regular visitation agreement;
- Deciding in advance which holidays child(ren) will spend with each parent.
Need Help Creating a -Parenting Plan?
Unfortunately, sometimes parents cannot agree on time allocation during significant holidays and events. If you need help with your holiday schedule, give Peskind Law Firm a call. Our experienced and trusted divorce lawyers will help you create a schedule that works for your specific situation. You can give us a call at 630-444-0701.