Are you sharing custody of a child or children? We understand it’s never easy, but it can be even more contentious during the holidays. Of course, you and your former spouse want to spend precious holiday moments with your kids, but you must split your time fairly and honor any previous custody agreements. While some North Carolina parents can easily find common ground on child custody, others find themselves locked in a battle over who gets to spend time with their child on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Day.
Concerning quality hours spent with your children, who speaks for you? Our experienced child custody lawyer from Speaks Family Law shares some ways you can help reduce stress and ease the process of co-parenting during the holidays. To schedule a consultation, call us at (910) 769-7339.
Consider Holidays When Creating a Co-Parenting Plan
The first step in making holidays as peaceful as possible is to plan before the holiday season with the other parent. We have assisted many parents with factoring holidays into their initial custody arrangements or co-parenting plans to prevent any confusion or disagreements later.
Parenting is a full-time job, made even more challenging when former spouses share child custody between two households. Particularly during the holidays, it is vital to consider the logistics of how co-parenting will work to make the season as stress-free as possible for parents and children. Here are some essential items to remember when creating a co-parenting plan for the holidays:
- Be clear about which holidays each parent will have child custody. Clarity will help to avoid any confusion or last-minute scrambling.
- Plan and communicate with your co-parent about your child's schedule if travel is involved. It is also a good idea to have a backup plan in case of unforeseen travel delays.
- Remember that the holidays are a time for family and togetherness. Despite the challenges of co-parenting, focus on your child’s best interests and work with your co-parent to create a happy and memorable holiday season.
If you and your child's other parent cannot agree about dividing holidays, you can seek assistance from a family lawyer. Ultimately, you may need a judge to determine the co-parenting arrangement.
Consult with Your Child's Other Parent About Gift-Giving
Divorced parents in North Carolina may have child custody arrangements that specify which parent has the child on specific holidays. However, even when parents do not have equal child custody, they can still consult with each other about gift-giving during the holidays. Discussing the gifts they plan to purchase for their child can help ensure that the child receives appropriate gifts and does not feel left out or neglected during this special time of year.
Many parents within a co-parenting arrangement feel pressure to match the other parent's gifting habits. Perhaps your former spouse usually spends $1,000 on gifts for each child, but you take a more conservative approach. Alternatively, you may fear that you and the child's other parent will purchase the same gift.
Whatever the case, consulting with the other parent before the holiday season can help reduce tension. If your child has been asking for one specific present, perhaps you and their other parent can go in on it together or determine who will purchase it this year. You can also discuss how much money you plan to spend. It's okay if you and the other parent approach gifting differently as long as you are both aware of the expectations before the holidays.
When consulting with each other, parents should consider the child's age, interests, and needs. They should also strive to agree on a budget for holiday gifts. If they cannot agree, they may need to seek the assistance of a mediator or child custody lawyer. Divorced parents can help make the holidays more enjoyable for their children by taking these steps.
Be Prepared for Higher Emotions During the Holidays
Prepare for volatile emotions during the holiday season. Whether your shared child is four, fourteen, or eighteen, you can expect the holidays to be an emotional time for them. Perhaps the holiday season evokes memories of when you and their other parent were still together. Or maybe your child wishes they could spend these special days with both of you rather than dividing their time. Often, custody arrangements dictate which parent the child will spend Christmas or Hanukkah with, which can lead to feelings of sadness, anger, and betrayal. Be patient with your child and take measures to keep them relaxed. Please don't attempt to suppress their emotions, but allow them to share their feelings with you.
Divorced parents must communicate and plan to make the holidays more enjoyable for everyone. First, each parent should sit down with their child and explain the custody arrangement, clearly explaining which days the child will be spending with each parent. Open dialogue with your child will help to prevent confusion or hurt feelings. Next, both parents should brainstorm ideas for how to make the holidays special for their child. This effort could include traditions like decorating cookies, shopping, enjoying holiday festivities, or watching holiday movies together. Finally, remain flexible for your child’s sake. If they want to spend more time with one parent on a particular day, accommodate their wishes, if possible. By taking these steps, divorced parents can help make the holiday season a time of joy for their entire family.
Keep Your Children In the Loop
Children in joint custody arrangements sometimes feel they have no control over their free time. They constantly shift from household to household at their parents' will, with no say in the matter.
While you cannot always fulfill your child's wishes regarding the custody arrangement, you can keep them in the loop about where they will spend their time. We recommend sitting down with your child and their other parent at the beginning of the year and explaining the custody arrangement for the entire year. Explain which holidays they will spend with each parent as far in advance as possible to give them time to adjust to the arrangement.
If you can create flexibility, allowing your child some control over where they spend time can be highly beneficial. For example, you can let them choose which parent they spend their birthday with, defaulting to the other parent for Christmas.
Consider Celebrating in New Ways
It’s tough when you can’t be with your child on special days like Christmas, Thanksgiving, and their birthday, due to a custody arrangement. However, you and your child can create new traditions and find other ways to celebrate together. For example, you can choose a new day to celebrate Christmas together each year. Or maybe you can make a tradition of driving past Christmas light displays on the way to drop them off at their other parent's house. Even if you cannot spend the holidays with your child, you can still find ways to celebrate together.
Speaks Law Firm: Your Child Custody Lawyers in Wilmington, North Carolina
Are you and your child’s other parent at odds over sharing custody this holiday season? At Speaks Family Law, we defend our clients against bullies, including uncooperative spouses. We will be your advocate who speaks for you, standing by your side to resolve your child custody challenges and help you and your child make joyful holiday memories to treasure. As experienced child custody attorneys, our nationally recognized firm has guided countless North Carolina parents through custody laws and agreements, and we’re here for you, too. Contact our team at the Speaks Law Firm today at (910) 769-7339, or complete our online form to schedule your case evaluation.