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Here’s How to Navigate Holiday Schedules With Two Families

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The holiday season is a time to think about what you’re thankful for and to spend time with your loved ones. Every year, children and adults alike get excited for the holidays. But what happens when you’ve split with your spouse, and you now have two families with two different schedules to coordinate?  

Divorced and separated parents must work out schedules with two different families, during the holiday season. If you’re in this situation, especially if this is your first holiday season with this new family dynamic, it can be stressful figuring out how to make everyone happy! Navigating holiday schedules can be tough on parents, but it doesn’t need to be complicated. 

One of the best ways to avoid stress and frustration during the holidays is to plan ahead. While that goes for just about any type of plan during the holidays, it’s especially true for schedules. Here’s our helpful advice to ensure you and your child have the best time possible this holiday season.

Steps to Navigating the Holidays with Two Families

1. Plan ahead.

As far in advance as possible, think about what you want to do and experience with your child(ren) over the holidays. Plan where you’ll be going, how long it’ll take to get there, and how long you plan to spend there. Bottom line: Determine as many details as you can.

This serves two purposes. The first is that you’ll share all this information with your child so they know what to expect and what is happening. After all, they may have parties or events they’ve planned to attend. 

The other purpose is so that you have all the information to give to your ex so you can discuss your plan with them. As we’ll discuss next, being able to let the other parent know what you want reduces friction when planning with them for the holidays.

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

There’s no way around this. You must communicate with your ex. The earlier, the better. Some people like to process information for a bit. Your co-parent may need to check on plans they or their family may have wanted for the holidays. Plan to discuss what you want for the holidays and then give them a reasonable time to get back to you. 

Come prepared. Have a calendar and a written schedule of events so you can leave that with your ex to review once you leave. It’s also good to have it in writing so there can be no misunderstandings. The holidays are a happy time, and no one wants to ruin it due to a miscommunication in dates or times. 

3. Plan for disagreement and how you’ll handle it.

In an ideal world, two former spouses could sit down and work all these scheduling points out on their own. Unfortunately, most of us don’t live in such a perfect world. 

If it’s not possible to come up with an informal agreement that works for both parties, then you’re left with only one possible solution—contact your experienced family lawyer at Smedley Law Group to negotiate a formal custody schedule for holidays. 

If you worry this may be a point of contention later on down the line, then it may be necessary to work the details of holiday scheduling out ahead of time during the initial custody hearing of your divorce. But even then, amendments to this over the years will have to be reviewed and approved if one party objects to those changes. The bottom line is that if it isn’t in writing in a formal custody agreement, then there’s no way you can compel the other parent to go along with the schedule.

Going to Court in New Jersey Over Visitation Schedules

The court system for New Jersey has long acknowledged how difficult crafting a visitation plan can be. With the introduction of Rule 5:8-5, the court has tried to make the process easier. 

Under this rule, each parent will file a Custody and Parenting Time/Visitation Plan. These will then be used to create a court-ordered visitation plan as it applies to holidays, school vacations, and other special events such as birthdays. What’s more, since this is a formal court order, it is binding and failure to go along with the plan can result in penalties against the non-compliant parent.

New Jersey’s Holiday Parenting Schedule

In general, most New Jersey courts will rotate the holiday schedule so that parents switch off who has the kids on each holiday on a yearly basis. For instance, one parent may have custody of the child on Thanksgiving in an odd-numbered year and Christmas in an even-numbered year. 

In this case, the other parent would have the opposite schedule and they would simply swap off. The courts will set a holiday schedule for Christmas Eve and Day, New Year’s Eve and Day, Good Friday/Easter Sunday, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Memorial Day, and Thanksgiving. Other religious holidays may also be considered based on the family’s religious beliefs. 

During the holiday season, most of us are put through our paces with lots of stress from shopping, cooking, cleaning, and preparing. The last thing you want is a complicated negotiation with your ex about custody and visitation with your kids. To that end, it’s important to work this out with your ex ahead of time and get it all formally decided before the holidays roll around.

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

If you’re dealing with child custody, parenting time, child support, or another family law issue, you should 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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