As a recently divorced parent in California, you might be stressing about your first post-divorce holiday season ahead. Many parents face tremendous challenges when they and their children are learning to adapt to new lifestyles. Keeping a few ideas in mind might help you worry less as you build new traditions and move forward to a successful, happy future.
Not all parenting plans are the same
Just because you know someone who decided to switch off every other holiday regarding visits with their children, doesn't mean your family will benefit from the exact same plan. What works for some is a disaster-in-the-making for others. The following key factors can help find a parenting plan that best aligns with your particular situation:
- Distance between homes: If your former spouse lives a few blocks away, dropping off kids may be quite convenient. If there are hours of driving or even entire states between houses, spontaneity may take a back burner to a more structured visiting plan.
- Children's best interests: Studies show many children fare better when provided ample time with both parents during the holidays. You might choose to spend major events with your former spouse for the sake of your children. If you tend to argue when you're in the same room, you might determine it's best for the kids if you don't even see their other parent at holiday gatherings.
- Individual work schedules and commitments: If you're one of many parents whose job requires you to work on holidays, your parenting plan might involve your former spouse having the kids for every holiday of the year. You can customize your plan to suit your own family's needs.
Plans vary; the point is that it's crucial to have a plan to avoid confusion, stress and disagreements during the holidays. The fine details of an individual schedule are entirely up to you.
Verbal agreements not always enough
If you're thinking it would be a hassle to execute a written holiday parenting plan and you'd rather just discuss the matter with your former spouse and go from there, you might consider the potential benefits a written plan provides.
- No room for doubt: When your holiday schedule is spelled out in writing and signed by all appropriate parties, there's no room for doubt. If you remember you get the kids for Christmas, but your former spouse says otherwise, you need only to check the written plan to clarify the matter.
- Helps children transition: Many children experience behavior issues during the first year or so following their parents' divorce. A written plan helps keep your children informed so they know what to expect ahead of time, which may help prevent emotional outbursts or other problems.
- It's on paper if trouble arises: While it would be nice to think no divorced couple ever experiences disagreements, the reality is that you might find yourself in a contentious situation at some point with regard to your children and the holidays. If an issue arises that questions your intentions or plans, or you are (for whatever reason) denied access to your children, having a signed agreement will increase your chances of obtaining a swift solution to the problem.
Where to seek support when there's trouble
This is it - your first holiday season as a divorced parent. You likely want to create a joyful, welcoming atmosphere that lets your children know how much you love them and that everything is going to be okay. You might even be excited about starting new customs and traditions together with your kids.
If you're facing unresolved problems with your former spouse regarding your holiday parenting plan, it might be a little difficult to relax and enjoy your time with your children. Sometimes, discussing a problem with an advocate is a first step in the right direction toward a positive outcome. An experienced family law attorney is often a skilled negotiator who can help you iron out differences and obtain agreeable results so you have more time to focus on enjoying holiday celebrations with your loved ones.