Navigating Shared Holiday Parenting Time

by Colleen Flynn Cyphers

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, or is it?  With the holidays fast approaching, most people are looking forward to family gatherings and dinners at Thanksgiving, the gift of giving for Hanukkah and Christmas and celebrating the New Year watching the ball drop with friends and family.  Unfortunately for others, such as parents going through a divorce or who are already divorced, the holidays can mean stress and often times fighting over who is going to spend the holidays with the children.  Here are a few tips to help parents avoid or lessen the stress caused by shared holiday parenting time:

  1. Put your children first.   While it is understandable that each parent will want to spend every holiday with their children, your number one priority must be your children and their feelings.  They deserve to spend the holidays with both parents, as well as the extended families of each parent.  Arguing over holiday parenting time, or denying the other parent time with the children, hurts the children more than it hurts the other parent.
  2. Put a schedule in place.  I always suggest to parents that they try to agree on a joint holiday schedule.  Parents ultimately know the best arrangement for their family, which may not be the standard Court appointed schedule.   Maybe dad’s family has a tradition of celebrating on Christmas eve – so why not let dad have the kids every Christmas eve and mom gets the kids on Christmas day? If the families live near each other, let the kids spend part of each holiday with each parent.  As the parents come to an agreement on the schedule, have them put it in writing so that there are no issues as the holiday approaches.
  3. Use a neutral intermediary for assistance.  If you find that you and your ex-spouse cannot agree on a shared holiday parenting time schedule, or if an issue arises with a schedule that is already in place, reach out for help from a person that both parents are comfortable with for help and guidance.  That person may be a friend, family member, clergy member or a mediator they worked with in the past – someone that can make suggestions and help the parents find common ground so that the kids are not faced with unnecessary frustration and arguing by their parents.
  4. Seek legal help if needed.  If parents cannot agree on a holiday parenting time schedule, the Court will impose the standard Court holiday schedule, which essentially alternates each holiday between the parents on alternating years. Unfortunately, even with a schedule in place, a parent might refuse to abide by the schedule.  The other parent will have to file a Motion with the Court, asking the Judge to intervene and Order the other parent to follow the schedule that is in place.  This could result in the violating parent having to pay the legal fees of the other parent.

Whether you are contemplating divorce, are already divorced or are a single parent having issues with an ex-partner, contact the attorneys at LevinCyphers to assist you with disputes over parenting time and custody and holiday schedules.  We will provide you with the expertise and guidance to determine what is in your child’s best interest, while making sure that your interests as a parent are protected.  The holidays can be stressful enough without having to fight with your ex-spouse over shared holiday parenting time.  Call the compassionate and experienced family law attorneys at LevinCyphers for a confidential consultation before the holidays arrive to insure your rights and your child’s rights are protected.