By Casey Marticorena
The holiday season for divorcees with children can be particularly stressful, especially when both parents want to spend as much quality time with their children during their winter break. Discussing and dividing up child custody for the holidays can often lead to additional stress for both parents and children. If a child custody schedule for the holidays has not been defined, there are ways to make shared custody as smooth and stress-free as possible:
Make Child-Focused Decisions: The best gift parents can give their children during the holidays is a continued sense of security and stability, so keeping the child’s best interest in mind when planning the holiday schedule should be a priority for both parents.
Plan Ahead: Start discussing the schedule in advance so there is sufficient time to resolve any issues and assure both parents the ability to plan how they will spend quality time with the child.
Be Specific to Avoid Confusion: Vague, open-ended dates and times, and even agreeing to “play it by ear” often leads to disagreements. Both parents should agree to not only a specific date, but also an exact time and location to exchange the child. This will set expectations for both parties, and allow the child to anticipate when he/she will see the other parent.
Schedule Calls or Video Chats: Agree on a specific time and who will initiate the call/chat to avoid disappointment for the parent and, more importantly, the child. Scheduling a time for the child to speak with the other parent gives him/her an opportunity to share holiday excitement and feel connected to both sides of the family.
Formalize the agreement: Put your agreement in writing and have it signed by court so that it is enforceable. If parents are in conflict and communication between the two is challenging or aggressive, court-monitored tools such asOur Family Wizard andTalking Parents can help facilitate. These types of online and smartphone apps allow parents to plan their child’s schedule and requires both parents to respond via the platform. It eliminates the negative comments or opinions that could take place during a phone call or private text message. Since the court monitors these online conversations, it ensures parents are responsive in a timely manner and that both parents are compliant.
Having both parents commit and follow through with agreed-upon expectations allows for smooth transitions, and replaces the feelings of stress and conflict. It will also give the child a sense of security and comfort knowing he/she will have time create holiday memories with both parents.
Casey Marticorena is a Partner and a Certified Family Law Specialist with The Law Offices of Donald P. Schweitzer in Pasadena. Ms. Marticorena handles a broad range of family law matters including division of property, division of business interests, child custody, visitation, child support, child custody evaluations, spousal support, dissolution of marriage, legal separation, domestic violence and civil harassment restraining orders.