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Dealing With Holiday Parenting Time Issues

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The holidays can be incredibly stressful because of co-parenting and navigating parenting time issues. If you’re stressed about dealing with your ex as you figure out your visitation time with your children, it’s time to stay calm. It’s also time to remember the essentials to co-parenting during the holidays (or the rest of the year): open communication and planning, as well as collaboration.

How to Cooperate With Your Ex to Make the Holidays Easier on the Children

Communication is key. If you’re not talking with your ex early on to plan for the holiday season, you’re risking a holiday with high anxiety and low joy. Your kids will pick up on your anxiety and stress. Keeping anxiety down for you and your co-parent will make the holidays less stressful for your kids. 

A written or online schedule is important, and lets everyone know what’s happening now and what’s coming up next. Adults and children alike derive comfort from knowing what to expect. Co-parenting is most successful when there’s consistency. Once you have a holiday schedule in place, stick to it unless an emergency situation arises. There’s nothing worse for kids than the question of “Where will I be on Thanksgiving?” or “Will Santa know where I am on Christmas morning?” 

To maintain this consistency, it’s important to communicate openly with your ex. You have every right to disagree with them. However, keep those discussions civil. Don’t let disagreements cross over into open hostility. Your children will pick up on that and it could sour everyone’s relationships and enjoyment of the holiday season.

Another idea to help things go smoothly is to let the kids have a say in where they want to spend the holidays, depending on their ages. This would only work if they are mature enough to make such a decision, but it eliminates one of you being “the bad guy” forcing the schedule on others. It also means your kids will have a say in matters, which can be empowering for them.

How to Navigate Holiday Schedules With Two Families

It bears repeating—communication and planning will make for a smooth and enjoyable holiday time for everyone. But there’s more you’ll need to do if you have a contentious relationship with your ex.

Compromise is something you’ll need to work on for this time of year. Sometimes, it’ll be necessary to give a little to your ex to ensure stress is taken off the kids, allowing them to have a happier holiday. 

If you have a contentious relationship with your ex, you may not even want to speak with them. But you need to set aside these differences to accommodate pick-ups and drop-offs so your children can enjoy themselves with both of you. You can opt to communicate electronically via email, text, or chat to iron out the details. Remember, your parenting plan should be in the best interests of your child, not what works easiest for the parents. 

How Can Parents Fairly Divide Holiday Time With Their Children?

In a perfect situation, you’d split the holiday plans right down the middle so each parent has an equitable amount of time. For instance, if one parent has the kids for Thanksgiving, then the other can have them on Christmas day. Then, next year, you can rotate.

If one parent has the kids on Christmas, then you may want the other one to have them during the days leading up to Christmas or the days following. This way it spreads out the holiday time between both parents and allows the kids to truly enjoy themselves. If, however, these ideas aren’t feasible, then you might need to look at other workable options.

If this is your first holiday season after a divorce/separation, make new traditions with your children. Help take their minds off the fact that one parent isn’t there so they can feel less anxious about the holiday and future holidays to come. 

When Holiday Child Custody Agreements Aren’t Working, What Are My Rights?

The holidays can bring out emotions in all of us. If this is the first holiday after a divorce or separation, it may seem difficult to celebrate or feel happiness as you leave your old life behind.

If your ex isn’t cooperating with the holiday child custody agreement, make sure you’ve tried everything at your disposal. Legally, you have the right to have your child with you when you and your ex agreed to it according to your parenting schedule. 

You could call the police to enforce the agreement, although this isn’t an optimal solution and would be a last resort. Before this happens, you want to be sure you’ve tried to communicate with them directly. You may even want to talk to friends or family who are in touch with your ex and see if they can reach out to see if there’s been a miscommunication.

Having the police show up at your house and your kids having to talk with an officer isn’t what you want. That’s why we want to reiterate that this should be the last ditch effort you go to when everything else has failed. We recommend maintaining ties with your family law attorney so that you can consult with them when issues like this arise.

Your rights in this situation are that you should have your children when your ex signed and agreed to in your holiday child custody agreement. You can also fight for this in mediation or in court by filing a motion to enforce litigant’s rights in family court. You’ll be asking the court to enforce the parenting orders and impose penalties on the party failing to comply, including, if appropriate, monetary sanctions. 

Unless your ex regularly makes an issue of custody, you may be going to court for very little. Mediation will likely result in reaffirming the agreement. Call your attorney’s office to discuss what your best options are in the midst of the holiday as well as afterward to avoid this happening again.

Make no mistake, you have rights to your children when the agreement says you do. Holidays tend to make it more difficult as the court system doesn’t work that fast (unless there’s physical or verbal harm being perpetrated). If your ex is having a hard time dealing with the loss of their kids during the holidays, the court can’t fix what happens during the holiday. There might be very little a judge does than to reiterate the laws regarding the child custody agreement, if it was a one-time issue. 

This is an emotional line that you must consider crossing here. On the one hand, you want to spend your legally approved holiday time with your kids. On the other hand, you don’t want to traumatize your kids by having the law step in to enforce the agreement. It may be necessary to settle this after the holidays so that it does not happen in years to come.

Work With Your Attorney to Plan Ahead for the Holidays

Co-parenting during the holidays just seems to add to an already stressful time. But if you want to make this time of year magical for your children (and yourself), it’s important to work with your ex on the situation through communication and compromise. If you’re in a contentious separation or divorce, talk to your attorney before the holidays about how to handle parenting time issues, should they arise.

Contact the Experienced Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in Woodbury, NJ Today

If you’re thinking about filing for divorce, you’ll also most likely be dealing with another matter like child custody, child support, or division of assets, so you’ll need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group represent clients throughout the state, including West Deptford, Woodbury Heights, Runnemede, and Westville. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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