The holiday season is upon us, and with its arrival comes a unique set of challenges for co-parents. Whether you’re recently separated and learning to navigate parenting from a new perspective or you have a few years of experience under your belt, there are several ways you can reduce stress and create meaningful holiday memories for your children.
Review your Parenting Plan
The easiest way to reduce stress and ensure a smooth transition into the holiday season is to follow your parenting plan. It’s a detailed roadmap for most, if not all holiday operations and you should review it carefully. Don’t forget to check the school calendar to see how it will line up with your respective schedules, or whether you need permission from your co-parent to travel out-of-state with the children for family visits.
If you’re separated and without a parenting plan, it’s never too early to reach out to your co-parent. Schedules differ from family to family, with parents choosing to split, alternate, or even assign fixed holidays based on their unique circumstances. If you are still mediating or litigating parenting time and can set aside your differences, consider celebrating the holidays together until a formal plan is established. Alternatively, you might coordinate your children’s gifts or focus on creating exciting new holiday traditions.
Even if you have a schedule, you should be willing to make changes that serve the best interests of your children. Keep in mind that when you’re flexible, your co-parent is more likely to be flexible, too. Though changes at the 11th hour can be unavoidable, the best practice is to communicate with your co-parent as far in advance as possible concerning any anticipated changes. Document any agreed upon changes by text or email. Absent an agreement, you will need to follow the parenting plan.
Consider the Best Interests of Your Children
While the goal is flexibility and communication, you can’t control how your co-parent will approach the holiday season. The most important thing for co-parents to remember is that the holidays are about their children. As obvious as it seems, you should make decisions that are grounded in your children’s best interests, even when it doesn’t seem fair or your co-parent is failing to follow the same high standard. When determining custody, Oregon courts consider the willingness and ability of each parent to support a child’s relationship with the other parent, so remember that how you (or your co-parent) behave during the holiday season can be used as evidence in future litigation.
Navigating the holiday season after divorce or separation can be uniquely challenging. If you need help creating or modifying a holiday parenting plan, The Commons Law Center is here to help. Contact us here to schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney. Our legal coaching program is designed to provide cost effective legal assistance on a variety of family law issues, including divorce, custody, and modifications.