How To Balance the Holidays with Shared Child Custody

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and after that comes Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa. As joyous as these holidays all are, they can be particularly stressful for divorced families. Having a well-structured shared child custody schedule can help avoid many challenges, making clear exactly where children are to be at any given time.

If you’re early in your divorce process and do not yet have a shared custody order in place, now is a good time to address it, even if only for the upcoming season. But even when such an agreement exists, it is important to stay flexible. Holidays are supposed to be happy, and if your children see you and your ex arguing over being a few minutes late or failing to accommodate reasonable requests, that memory will stay with them for a very long time. Here are some tips to help you have a peaceful and happy holiday.

Achieving balance is largely dependent upon the particulars of your family situation. Where divorced families that have similar traditions will likely need to create a schedule where the children alternate years with each spouse, there are other scenarios where only Thanksgiving needs to be alternated because one parent observes Christmas and the other observes Hanukkah. Because many holidays involve long weekends that would keep children away for an extended period on a special holiday, some divorced parents choose to split the holiday in half, instead alternating which parent has the morning and which has the evening.

Though it may feel strange – and even lonely – to spend the holidays without your child, it is important to remember that there is no rule against celebrating twice. Just because the calendar doesn’t say it’s Christmas Day doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate and unwrap gifts the next time your child is over. Even more importantly, if there is a way to compromise so that the parents can be together with the children for the holidays – perhaps alternating back and forth between each other’s homes each year — it may make things easier for children. This is not always possible, and in some cases it takes years for hard feelings to fade and for this to become an acceptable option.

The thing that is most important to remember is that your children will only be small and subject to a custody agreement for a short time. As they get older they will be invited to holiday events outside of your family circle, and may even have in-laws of their own to spend time with. The earlier you can find a way to compromise, the more likely you are to have children with happy holiday memories.

For help with negotiating a workable shared custody agreement, contact our compassionate divorce attorneys today.