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Creating a parenting plan that works during the holidays

Parents quickly realize that there will be a certain amount of trial and error after the divorce. This even can happen in the most agreeable of situations, but the key is to remain patient and remember the priorities. It starts with creating positive memories for the children. It is best to have a clear set of expectations and arrangements going in. This should be a part of any parenting plan and can help ensure its success.

Think big picture

Chances are that changes and new traditions will need to be set in place to accommodate the alternating-year nature of most agreements. Think about what the biggest priorities of the holiday season should be and consider subtly checking with the kids to quietly gauge their priorities.

The agreement can be tailored to the needs of the family. Perhaps there is a tradition of going to grandmother’s house on Christmas Eve, which can still be done in an hour or two regardless of the year. Maybe the kids always spend Thanksgiving with an aunt on your side of the family and the other side does not travel to get together for that holiday.

Some big-picture questions to ask:

  • Which holidays will be alternated?
  • How are any special religious holidays handled?
  • Halloween is a big day for young children, so how is this or any popular non-holiday days handled?
  • Are birthdays spent with both parents or will there be separate events?

Remember to address the details

Attention to detail will often mean the difference between an enjoyable holiday and a stressful one. Different custody plans have different levels of detail, but here are some helpful tips to remember:

  • Your final order will typically define when the holiday time starts and ends
  • For holiday transitions, provide a loose itinerary so the kids know what to pack
  • Outline how and by whom the kids are transported
  • If gifts are involved, it is smart to coordinate this with the ex-spouse to avoid duplicates, and there may be room to share the cost of a big-ticket item

It is best to plan ahead

Many couples choose to wait until after the holidays to announce their divorce. This does not mean that they should put off thinking about or modifying their custody arrangement during this year’s season. An experienced Board-Certified Family Law expert attorney can help draft an initial enforceable final order parenting plan, or a later modified enforceable parenting plan custom-crafted for your own unique parenting situation that is fair, binding and accommodating to the unique needs of parents and children alike.

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