Shared Custody on the Holidays: Tips to Navigate a New Normal
In the months and years following a divorce, former spouses are faced with a lot of challenges. This is especially true if children are involved. For newly divorced couples with shared custody of minor children, one of the biggest points of contention relates to holiday time sharing.
While most holidays can be accounted for in a court-approved parenting plan, this document can sometimes be too rigid. Other times, plans may be too vague and fail to clearly explain how holiday time sharing will occur.
Below, we have outlined some effective tips for navigating the new normal and giving minor children the best opportunity to enjoy every holiday season.
Considerations in the Negotiation Process
If you are still in the midst of negotiating your child custody agreement, then you have the opportunity to address most holiday-related issues before they arise.
Ideally, your parenting plan should explain how each holiday will be divided in detail. This includes both religious holidays that your family acknowledges (i.e., Christmas), as well as school closures, such as spring break.
There are several methods that can be used to divide holidays, such as:
- Sharing holiday time (exchanging children midday)
- Alternating years
- Splitting holidays
- Dividing holidays in accordance with the visitation schedule
- Splitting summer break (each parent spends one month with children)
The tactics above are a great way to share custody while still giving both parents the opportunity to enjoy the holidays with the children.
Custody can be divided in whichever manner that you and your spouse agree. For instance, each party can take the children for two alternating two-week sessions during summer break so that neither parent goes more than 14 days without seeing the children.
Tips for Navigating the Holidays with Shared Custody
If your parenting plan is already finalized by the courts, then you will need to use a bit more tact when navigating holiday time sharing. Vague plans that do not adequately address important holidays will require you and your ex-spouse to compromise in the best interests of the children.
Refer to the Parenting Plan
The easiest solution is to refer to the parenting plan. Hopefully, your plan addresses all key holidays, spring break, and summer vacation. Whenever there is a disagreement regarding time-sharing, the parenting plan is binding and enforceable.
Be Prepared for a Negative Response
If your parenting plan is vague or if you simply want to spend a few extra days with your children, there is nothing wrong with asking for this additional time. However, you must be mentally prepared for a negative response. The other party does not have to deviate from the parenting plan, even if your request is reasonable.
When asking for extra time or to stray from the parenting plan, be clear about your request. Let the other parent know what dates you are requesting when you would like to exchange the children, and when you will be returning them.
Keeping your children for additional days that were not agreed upon can cause friction that will strain the entire custodial process.
Compromise When Possible
Both of you should be willing to compromise at times. For example, if your ex-spouse asks to take the children on vacation that cuts into your assigned days during Christmas break, consider allowing them to do so.
There may come a time when you want to do the same. A little give and take will improve your chances of success when you make a similar request in the future.
If you and your former spouse are frequently disagreeing about holiday-related or other custodial issues, then you may want to seek legal counsel.
At the Gucciardo Law Firm, we provide expert guidance on divorce and family court matters. We can help you determine the best course of action, and if necessary, file a petition for a modification of child custody on your behalf. Contact us today for a free consultation.
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