Child custody issues are emotional any time of the year, but especially hard at the holidays. Even a relatively benign holiday like Halloween can present anxiety for both the children and the parents of little ghosts and goblins.
Before we go any further, let’s just say it: If you can do so happily and healthily, stay married. Seek divorce advice from trained professionals to see if you can work it out. But unfortunately in a lot of situations it’s just not always possible. As family law attorneys, we really can help. We’d rather you stay married if that’s best for you and your loved ones. But if it’s not possible, or if you’re already divorced, please read on.
Families, and More
Families: Coping with divorce means everyone involved needs to be sensitive, not only to the children, but also to the extended family members like “new” and “old” grandparents. For the single divorced parent (or for a particularly unhappy divorce) the extended family grows smaller, not larger. This can make the holidays even trickier.
More: How much money does everyone have? Big differences, and having too little money all around, are both hard situations. How cooperative are you as co-parents? How flexible or restrictive is the Parenting Time Agreement? Where do the families live after the divorce? No matter your circumstances, it can be hard to know what to do at the holidays.
Everyone is affected, but the most important issue is doing right by the children. Statistics show that making sure your kids feel loved, confident, and strong during and after the divorce will help them manage the separation best and still come out great. Work with your ex to make sure that you’re building positive childhood memories for your kids. Listen to your kids, and make sure they know it’s important to have both parents in their lives (remind yourself of this too!). Both mothers and fathers have rights to see their kids, and should normally be involved in co-parenting. Don’t let guilt undermine your authority as a parent. Talk positively about your ex. With a clear, but perhaps suitably flexible child custody agreement, the holidays can be managed with:
1. Great communication — All the families (kids and grandparents too!) need to be included.
2. Good planning — Compare calendars way ahead of time. Oftentimes there are alternative events surrounding the holiday that will provide options.
3. Sensitivity to the kids’ wishes — Pay attention to their feelings as much as possible.
4. A positive attitude — Make sure everybody is working hard for the kids.
5. Starting Holiday traditions RIGHT AWAY — Work together with both families.
• Decide a workable schedule ahead of time, so there’s no competition or “one-ups-manship” going on that confuses the kids:
o Who’s going to go to the costume store?
o Who’s going to take the kids trick-or-treating?
o Do we want to all go together?
o Do we want to switch off half-way through the evening, or alternate years?
o Does one of us go to the school’s events, and the other trick-or-treating?
o Send both sets of grandparents pictures of the kids in their costumes.
o MAKE it FUN, and be POSITIVE, especially that first year.
Southern California family law attorneys Kelly R. McGrane-Irwin and Mark A. Irwin of Irwin & Irwin, Law LLP cater to families of children of all ages. We know that some families need extra help at the holidays. For unanticipated disputes, or those change-of-heart issues, we can help. You may have some of your preliminary questions answered here, but we would be very glad to talk to you if you need advice. Sometimes you need a stricter interpretation of the custody agreement. Sometimes it’s just better for everyone if you can work it out amongst yourselves, always depending on the relationships of all the parties. We have helped many families. If the custody agreement is just not working, you may need to start over. 714-222-3992.