Child Custody

The last few months of the year include important holidays for people of just about every religious faith as well as other family-centered holidays. For parents who are in the process of divorcing or already divorced, the holiday season can bring considerable conflict over who gets the children when and for how long.

Sadly, many family court calendars quickly fill up over the holidays with parents battling over holiday custody, visitation and travel plans. Parents can minimize these conflicts and help the holidays be more enjoyable and stress-free for everyone -- particularly their children -- if they do some careful planning ahead of time.

Include Holidays in Your Parenting Plan

By doing this, you have everything legally documented. You can always mutually agree to make an exception to the plan. However, by having holiday arrangements spelled out in detail, you help avoid misunderstandings and the need to get lawyers and courts involved.

Couples choose various options for holidays. Many choose to have the kids split major holidays between the two sides of the family -- for example, Christmas Eve at one home and Christmas Day at another. This works better if you and your ex live within close proximity and you get along reasonably well.

Some parents choose to go with alternating years for each holiday. If courts get involved in the decision-making process, that's what they often choose because it's simpler. It may also work better if your ex doesn't live within easy driving distance.

As with nearly everything in the divorce process, if you can be flexible about certain things, it can help your negotiating position when you're asking for something you feel strongly about from your spouse.

Holidays Can Be Special Regardless of the Date

Once you're no longer living together as a family, you have to accept that likely you won't have your children with you for every important holiday. That's why it's essential to stress the importance of the holiday itself -- not the specific date -- to your children. Most kids won't object to two Thanksgiving celebrations or two Christmases as long as they know that their parents aren't fighting about it.

Your family law attorney can help you incorporate holiday planning into your parenting plan and, if necessary, to make changes to that plan. Even if you're not having conflicts during the holidays, kids' needs and wishes change as they get older, and it may be wise to adjust your parenting plan accordingly.