At this time of the year, my family room is invaded with commercials of happy, perfect families gathering around the tree or table for the holidays. While commercial retail America would like to paint this joyous picture, many families experience the very opposite. The reality for many families that are divorced or going through a divorce is that it can be a tumultuous time with emotions running high, often driven by a lot of bitterness. These emotions tend to lead to difficulty around establishing parenting time.
Often times, the parties have misunderstandings or the Order does not have specific exchange times, which causes most of the friction and control issues between parents. Children are the ones that get the short end of the stick because their parents can’t work out the differences. The parents’ glasses are fogged with their inability to cooperate and the need to be “right” or to hurt the other parent. In their process of fighting, they forget to focus on what is best for their children.
Too often, the arguments turn into threats to call the attorneys and the police. Unfortunately the attorneys can’t do much to resolve the issues because the courts are closed. The police cannot “enforce an Order” since it is a “family court matter.” In the end, there is anger, another ruined holiday and another legal bill. In other words, not much to be thankful for. If this describes your recent Thanksgiving holiday, let it be the last one of its kind.
Holidays do not have to be a negative emotional circus nor should they be for your children. Instead, holidays can be a joyous time sharing your children with the other parent, easily accomplished by keeping a few things in mind. I tell my clients, “You are divorcing each other; not your children.” Your children did not have a choice in the divorce and they love both of you. The worst thing you can do is fight on a holiday with your ex-spouse or soon to be ex-spouse in front of the children as this will only cause resentment and they will begin to hate holidays. Instead, show them the joy of being able to celebrate the holiday with both you and your ex-spouse. Share your children; do not divide them.
If you have a holiday schedule without specific exchange times, an unclear Order or you need to change the time or other logistics, try to resolve the issue now and not a day or two days prior to the holiday. Here are some simple steps you can do to eliminate any possible issues on the day of the actual holiday:
- Email or text the other parents stating you want to clarify or confirm plans for the holiday. Be brief but specific and leave any emotions or accusatory tone out of the email. State the facts. Written communication is always best in case there is any question later.
- If you have a parenting consultant or parenting time expeditor, email her with the issue and of course copy your ex on the email exchange so there is no question of trying to have ex-parte communication. Often times, the parenting consultant or the parenting time expeditor will not address any issue unless the other party is copied on the communication. Again, keep the issue brief and factual.
- If you have time, you may try mediation to resolve the issue in the event you and your ex cannot reach an agreement on your own.
- Contact your attorney. It is much easier for your attorney, should you need to involve her, to try to resolve the issue with your ex-spouse or opposing attorney. Moreover, if the Court needs to get involved, a phone conference can be scheduled in a timely manner to address the issue.
As you are trying to resolve the issue, remember the importance for the children to spend time with both of you even if your time together does not fall on the actual holiday. The resolution of the issue should be quite simple to accomplish if you take to heart the goal of doing what is best for your children. When this happens, the celebration will be stress free and filled with joy, laughter and perhaps even a little bit of forgiveness. I guarantee this is the best gift you can give to your children during this holiday season.