Don't ruin your holidays

September 8th 2017 • 0 Comments

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There are nearly as many co-parenting styles and relationships as there are divorced parents.  Certainly, there are good reason for them, as couples will reach varying levels of cooperation after divorce.  In any case, one of the most stressful and contentious areas is likely to be centered around traditional holidays.  While some divorced parents end up with large blended "co-families" after divorce and find they spend these holidays together, this is not likely to be the case for all of us.  Even in most optimal cases, there is usually extended family, travel plans, and many other factors that will influence holidays not the least being remarriage.

I have mentioned the criticality of your parenting plan/agreement before.  You might think at the time of your divorce that you and your ex will always be flexible and will amicably work out changes to accommodate either of your needs for holidays.  Perhaps things have gone fairly amicably to this point.  Maybe you just want to get things over with and move on.  The truth is, you have no idea how the dynamics in your relationship might change over time.  The only guarantee is what you have in writing:  your parenting or custody order.  Since holidays tend to break up any normal rhythm you have established after divorce, this only adds complexity.  Do not expect a lawyer to do this for you, this is a personal decision that you have to think through carefully.  Granted, if you end up remaining very collaborative with your ex, nothing in your formal agreement will be a problem, but that is not a good reason to be haphazard – always plan for the worst.

With the above in mind, if you are dead set on arranging a holiday sharing agreement where you are jumping through hoops just to see your children on a particular recognized holiday every year, think twice!  Let us assume you celebrate Christmas.  You think “I can’t fathom time without seeing my little [insert child’s name] every year, so I will propose that we exchange at 12:00pm every year with alternating arrangements.  Wouldn't you rather have your child for the entire contiguous time every other year vs. some fragmented yearly holiday time?  What happens before and after you exchange your child?  If your family is celebrating miles away do you have to travel to exchange your child, later ending up alone?  Wouldn't you at least rather be with your family despite missing your children?

While divorce is often difficult, it is also brings opportunities.  You have the opportunity to reinvent yourself and identity.  You can grow from the experience.  You also have the opportunity to develop new traditions.  Forget trying to rigidly adhere to arbitrary holidays.  Instead, establish "special days". Have a once a month game night, movie night or painting party.  Think of novel ways to spend time that is memorable.  Most of all, make this a scheduled, regularly happening event.  People look forward to holidays most because they are with family, and there is the anticipation of a recurring time of year.  Simply make up your own.

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