Thanksgiving is upon us with Christmas just around the corner, and for some families it’s their first time navigating the thorny situation of dealing with post-divorce custody arrangements during the holidays. It doesn’t have to be difficult process though, especially if you keep the following tips in mind:
Get It in Writing
This, above everything else, is the most important factor in planning for the holidays post-divorce. Custody arrangements, even in relatively amicable divorces, need to be spelled out in as much detail as possible in a divorce settlement so there is no confusion for either party. This goes especially for the holidays, which can be particularly contentious and filled with emotion because extended family is also involved. A good Divorce Attorney will make sure these arrangements are laid out in black and white: will you and your spouse trade holidays every year? Will you stick to a set schedule? Are there extenuating circumstances that might affect your plans or travel? Will there be allowances for updating the holiday schedule in the case of one or both spouses re-marrying? How do all these circumstances affect the normal custody schedule?
These are the kinds of things you’ll need to consider when settling on a fair and equitable arrangement, always keeping in mind that you may not always be on good terms with your ex, so you’ll need to have what is laid out on paper as a guide for you both.
That being said…if you and your ex get along it’s a good idea to keep that relationship healthy by being flexible about holiday arrangements where you can. Plans and circumstances change, especially in a year like 2020 where work, health, and school considerations are completely up in the air and have affected how millions of people are spending their holidays. Make tradeoffs, if need be, to preserve the health of your relationship with your ex. The hard part of your divorce is over, so there’s no point in agitating things to the point where you need to go back in front of a judge and update your arrangements further. And, if there comes a time when things do sour enough that you need to go back in front of a judge, it will definitely help your case if you point out times when you’ve been flexible and reasonable with your ex, for the good of your children.
Embrace the Change
This part can be difficult, given how much comfort we draw from the traditions of the holidays, but it’s a necessary part of the process and can be fun. Every holiday tradition you grew up with started somewhere, and at some point was new, and it only became tradition with time. Make new traditions with your kids that are your own to make your new time alone with them special. And, when possible, set up time to check in with your kids via video (another perk of staying in good graces with your ex when you can.)
For Your Own Good, Put the Kids First
In all this planning don’t forget, as with everything else in the divorce process, that the kids should come first. That means making sure their needs are met, of course, but also not subjecting them to overhearing heated arguments, griping about your ex or their family in front of them, complaining about how “the holidays are ruined”, etc. You set the standard for your children, and if you sincerely go about things like they’re fun and (new) normal, they’ll follow your lead. Some of our most intense memories are made around the holidays, and the last thing you want is for your child to associate them with post-divorce trauma.
This is important for your children’s well-being, of course, but there’s a less-altruistic legal side: you don’t want to be found in contempt of your custody order, or spark some other fight that could be used as evidence of you being an unfit guardian for your child. Keep the peace, and there will be much less worry for everybody involved.
Have questions about your custody arrangements or need help setting them up? Reach out to us today: we’ve got decades of experience assisting husbands and wives in need of a Family Law and Divorce attorney in Woodstock, GA and the north metro Atlanta area. We’re here to help.