The holidays are difficult for any family. They can present unique challenges for parents who are separated or divorced. It is important to think ahead about how each holiday will affect your custody and/or visitation schedule, and plan accordingly. This can help prevent serious arguments and problems during an already stressful season.
Before we begin, it is important to note that any current custody or parenting plan must be honored. Do not expect to make a one-time exception to an existing order without a written agreement from your spouse, at the very least. If you are considering a long-term or permanent change, you should pursue a modification to make sure it is clear and legally binding. Changing a custody arrangement without the express consent of your spouse can have serious consequences.
Tips for Creating a Workable Holiday Parenting Plan
No two families are the same, and when the holidays approach, it’s helpful to take everything into account. Should you alternate holidays? Is there a holiday you celebrate but your spouse routinely does not? Look at it from every angle and think about what will cause the least disruption and stress for your child or children. If your case goes to court, remember that the judge will make a ruling based on the best interests of the child.
At any stage of a divorce or custody proceeding, you can consider and apply the following tips to help reach or modify an agreement that works for you and your children:
- Plan ahead. Don’t wait until a few days before Thanksgiving or New Year’s Eve to decide where your child will spend the holiday. Talk to your spouse early on and try to work out a plan that makes sense. The best idea is to decide on holidays at the beginning of the year, put it in writing, and follow the plan.
- Be consistent. Try to think of how you want each holiday to be shared. Will you alternate holidays or try to split the day in half? Will you simply celebrate twice? Decide on a strategy and stick to it—but be prepared to have a curveball or two thrown your way.
- Try to stay calm and consider the other side. Of course, you want to spend every holiday with your child, but try to remain calm and think about how your spouse may be feeling. Think about your child’s feelings as well, and try to make decisions that make it less stressful for everyone. Compromise on a holiday that’s less important to you or be prepared to “take turns” for the most important ones. Remember, you’re in it together.
- Don’t forget about travel arrangements. When parents live close to one another, this is not usually an issue. If you live in different cities, counties, or states, however, you will need to think about travel arrangements. Figure out the finances and time involved so there are no unpleasant surprises as the holidays approach.
- Address special requests. Instead of immediately refusing a special request, like a holiday trip to another state, consider whether there is an accommodation or request of your own that you would like fulfilled. You might find it worthwhile to give up one holiday for a different one.
Talk to a Massachusetts Custody Lawyer
In our experience as Massachusetts child custody lawyers, these are the cases that generate the most stress and concern for our clients. At Miller Law Group, P.C., we are here to protect your interests and help you reach holiday parenting plans that work for you and your family. With our extensive experience in family law, you can rest assured that we can offer insight that will set you up for success.
To learn more, call (508) 502-7002 or contact us online. We look forward to making your 2021 holiday season a little brighter.