Spending time with our children is always precious, even for a divorced parent. While spending time during their vacation can bring joy, it can also bring frustration. Thanksgiving and Christmas vacations loom large in children's minds. They can also be a minefield for divorcing parents to successfully maneuver. The following are common vacation parenting/visitation/time-sharing disputes and ways to avoid them:
- Not having a plan. If you have a temporary parenting plan/visitation schedule or a permanent one, then your problems may be solved. You need to carefully consult those documents to determine which parent is to have the child during which day of the holiday time periods. However, if the plans are not clearly outline when the children is visiting which parent, then you must have a plan. This means sitting down immediately with your former spouse and attempting to negotiate how the holiday time periods will be divided. A quick solution may be cut the days in half. Holidays are important to families no matter what their current situation. Dad can have the children in the morning, while mom can spend quality time with them in the late afternoon and evening. In the event that you cannot come to an agreement with your spouse, then mediation and parenting coordinators can provide a way for parents to resolve any disputes they have over time-sharing. Often, these professionals have a reduced fee schedule to assist individual, and make themselves available at short notice during the holiday periods to assist divorcing or divorced spouses to resolve these issues in a timely fashion;
- Travel. Again, your temporary order or Final Judgment/Parenting Plan will provide guidelines as to when a parent may travel with the children and under what conditions. However, if your Order or Parenting Plan does not contain these provisions, then you must attempt to negotiate those issues with the other parent. Mediators and parenting coordinators also can provide assistance in resolving these issues for the holidays; if splitting a holiday in half is not a solution for your family because of travel plans, alternating the holidays is another option. By alternating the holiday time periods every other year, you would not feel like you were missing out on family festivities and you can always plan for your travel ahead. For example, when dad gets the Christmas break and mom gets the Thanksgiving break, the next year mom gets the Christmas break and dad gets the Thanksgiving break.
- Gifts. Gift giving when parents are separated can be difficult. However, the following guidelines are very useful. Most children have a wish list during the holidays. Resist the temptation to out gift the other parent during this time of year. Both parents should get together briefly and have a quick phone call to discuss each child's wish list. During these conversations, the parents can decide who will purchase what gift or how you both plan to contribute to the cost of a high cost or big-ticket item. In addition, remember that the gifts belong to your children and be flexible enough to give travel with the children back and forth between households. The one exception to this suggestion is gifts that may drive the other parent crazy. Although it may be tempting to buy gifts for your children that you know will upset your ex–spouse, you should resist that temptation. If the gift is something that you think it would be beneficial to your child, and appropriate, then you may still wish to buy it, but maybe make a deal with your child and your former spouse that the “crazy” gift will remain in your home. Besides, drum kits or other noise making gifts sometimes are difficult to transport between homes.
- Communication is key. To avoid time-sharing or parenting disputes during the holidays, communication is key. If you and your ex–spouse have a strained relationship, then web–based communication tools such as www.ourfamilywizard.com may be useful. The bottom line is during the holiday season, remember to put your children first. Do what is in your child's best interests. When in doubt, remember it is the season to be thankful and to be jolly.