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The holiday is season is here now, commencing with Halloween! A childhood favorite, this holiday may incite passionate arguments with co-parents who really wanted to trick or treat with their children or take them to their school or neighborhood Halloween party. Even if you have a smoothly working parenting plan, holiday “changes” can bode with it unexpected strife rather than the fond family memories you desire to build with your family.

This article gives you tips to help you review and create a workable holiday co-parenting plan. If you find that agreeing on a plan is challenging, fear not – because trained professionals can easy this burden and get it straightened out before it begins! Seek out the assistance from an experienced family law attorney or mediator!

Practical Planning

Your first step toward building a happy holiday schedule is to plan. Start by creating a list of all the holidays you and your child(ren)’s other parent celebrate. Then work out which of these dates you’re likely to be off work and able to celebrate with your child(ren). Hopefully you each have different days that are most important to you and then maybe there is a way to share or alternate the most important days.

If you and the other parent are on friendly terms and live nearby each other, you may do what many parents do with holidays and that is to simply celebrate these days together. It could be a time of warm togetherness for your child(ren) to be with both parents. Often, however, scheduling conflicts and other problems make such arrangements impractical. In such cases, you may require a third pay, an attorney or mediator to reach an equitable and workable arrangement.  Do not wait until there is a problem – act now so that you can complete the 2021 holidays as smoothly and with as much celebration as possible!

Double Days

Many parents choose a plan in which they both get their child(ren) for each holiday, but at different times of the day. Christmas mornings may be with one parent, and the evenings may be with the other. This sort of doubling up can be stressful for all involved, however. Many parents find Christmas Eve to be the most important and so transporting children late morning on Christmas Day often works very well. You may not realize that you have entered -unconsciously- into a “seasonal” competition with your ex-spouse/co-parent about whose holiday celebration are the best! Beware because this may saddle the child(ren) with pressure to validate the parents over simply enjoying this season of fall and winter holidays.

One alternative that many co-parents choose involves celebrating holidays on two different weekends. The child(ren) can have a good time at both celebrations without having to tear themselves away from one home to go to another.  Another excellent solution is the well-known alternating holidays so that one year one spouse has Christmas Eve and the following year the other spouse has Christmas Eve.

In many cases, especially now that traveling is resuming, post-pandemic, parents might split holiday schedule with school break days evenly and alternating the holiday every other year. Or, sometimes one parent may simply not care about Thanksgiving or Christmas depending upon their family traditions, culture and experience. The predictability of such an arrangement can be particularly easy on the child(ren).

If one parent doesn’t have paid time off to celebrate certain holidays, you may find that it’s hard to work out a schedule that’s fair to both parents. Work obligations may require an uneven arrangement. Many co-parents in this situation simply go with their usual parenting time schedule and alternate the actual holiday day of Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Finally, when the parents of child(ren) live far away from each other, it may be unfeasible to have the child(ren) travel back and forth and so they definitely opt for alternating years so they can absorb the cost of travel and a longer visit. In such cases, phone calls and Zoom calls may need to take the place with the other parent during these lengthier visits.  At McMurdie Law & Mediation, (www.mcmurdielaw.com) we have seen about every holiday plan known and will gladly help you brainstorm and solidify a new plan that would support what your family needs now.

COVID and Travel and Gifts, Oh My!

Clear communication is always absolutely essential once you have your parenting plan for the holiday in place to ensure unusual or unexpected circumstances that arise don’t lead to dissension.  Co-parents should discuss in advance how they will handle various situations if either child(ren) or a parent becomes infected with coronavirus or other illness. When a parent is ill, it might be more practical for the child(ren) to stay with the healthy parent. Similarly, if the child(ren) becomes ill in the home of the non-custodial parent, you might want to let them stay there until they get better. Make the well-being of your children a priority, and of course, extended family to ensure that all stay safe during the holiday season.

If you want to travel with your kids during the holiday season, be aware of any prior agreement with your co-parent on how those times are to be divided in the future by keeping track with a written plan to fall back upon next year. Make sure you discuss your plans with your co-parent before making any travel arrangements and the sharing of those travel costs, too.

It’s natural to want to lavish a child(ren) with gifts to demonstrate love, but one or another parent may wish to follow moderation. Sometimes parents have very different income levels as well, making it hard for one to compete with the other. In such cases, they would need to agree on a fair gift-giving plan. These arrangements are usually discussed during mediation.

Keeping open your lines of communication is the best way to make sure that co-parenting during the holidays is delightful (not frightful! 👻). For parents who find it hard to agree on a holiday schedule and other details, engaging a family law attorney or mediator could help.  We specialize in reaching these important seasonal terms of agreement.

If you need help reviewing and discussing your own parenting plan or think mediation could resolve your challenging co-parenting dynamic, now is the time to act.  Call (480) 777-5500 to schedule a consultation.