Who Gets Christmas? (Part II)

On behalf of The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. posted in Divorce, Child Custody and Parenting Plan on Friday, December 6, 2013

In the previous post, it seemed we saved Christmas for everyone by making sure that every year all divorced parents shared part of Christmas with their children.  But for many families, this arrangement may not work.

For example, many families like to plan a holiday trip over winter break.  If each parent must share Christmas, taking a trip becomes much more challenging, limiting the time of the trip to perhaps only a few days if each parent must also share New Year’s Day as well.  For some divorced parents, sharing Christmas Day may mean not visiting family out of town for Christmas not just every other year, but every year.

Another issue:  family traditions – some families have historically shared every Christmas Eve together, for example, or every Christmas afternoon.  A share Christmas mandate will not work well for these families, as it forces one parent to break family tradition every other year.

A variation on the last issue:  traditional family gatherings.  Many families have extended family that live in town and out of town but will gather in town in one place on a given day.  Dividing Christmas Day can threaten these hallowed arrangements.

Other complications arise as well.  The reverse of the family vacation is the reality of parents back to work.  Dividing up winter break time may be of no value to parents who spend that break working.  It also complicates issues like childcare.  Some families are interfaith and celebrate different holidays, for example Christmas and Hanukah.  In these situations, dividing Christmas alone does not address the other parent’s religious time.  And none of these plans provide for future changes, for example, one parent remarrying or the children getting older and having activities planned with neither parent.

How can a Parenting Plan possibly take into consideration all of these possibilities?  It cannot, and should not, because Parenting Plans are not one-size-fits-all.  The best way to arrive at the best Parenting Plan for you is to have a thorough discussion with your attorney during the divorce process where you go through all of your holiday issues and traditions.  Make a list of possibilities and rank your preferences for purposes of negotiation.

Consider having a planning option that each October parents submit changes to the given plan because of some special event during break or unusual happenings (like a child’s out-of-town basketball tournament or school trip) and work together to meet the holiday goals, which can be put in the Parenting Plan itself.  A skilled attorney will help you identify what means most to you at this time of year and structure a plan that will accommodate you but also work best overall for the children and the family.

The key goal for attorneys and clients alike is to avoid either parent feeling that sense of emptiness and disappointment at a family time of year.  No situation can be perfect, but a well-tuned plan can be tailored to each individual family in a way that meets each parent’s needs and makes no one a Scrooge.

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