holiday co-parenting schedule

How to Create a Co-Parenting Schedule for the Holidays

Santa’s arrival was always a big deal at my house. My young children would leave out cookies, milk, and even carrots for Santa’s reindeer. One Christmas Eve, my son cleverly hid his iPad on the floor trying to capture a video of Santa placing presents under the tree to show all his friends at school. Christmas morning always came early with anticipation after a late night of wrapping
presents while listening to Christmas music. Wrapping paper would fly as my eyes were half open with a warm cup of coffee.

The first Christmas Eve after my divorce, my children spent the holiday at their mother’s residence. Gone was the anticipation of Santa, the cookies, and the carrots. I found myself in a familiar place wrapping presents late at night listening to Christmas music, but instead of joy and excitement, tears streamed down my cheek, knowing my children wouldn’t be waking me up bright and early, exclaiming, “Santa was here”! Nothing I had read or anyone I had talked to could have prepared me for just how alone I would feel that night.

Fast forward two years and my perspective had changed. I wrapped presents in advance because I had planned a ski trip with friends during my children’s mother’s holiday parenting time. I enjoyed sleeping in for the first time in a long time, if not ever, on Christmas morning! I adjusted. In this blog post, I share with you tools to help you get through the holidays as divorced parents.

Make Modifications and Planning in Advance

It is important to be very familiar with your holiday co-parenting schedule in your divorce agreement. If your parenting schedule is based on the children’s school schedule, have it printed out in advance, enter important dates in a calendar, and clearly understand which parent has which days and nights. When going through a divorce, it is often difficult to see into the future; however, things can change over time. Is there a new spouse? New subsequent children? Have the children’s needs changed over time? If so, then a modification to the holiday parenting plan may need to be discussed in advance. Family courts often see a rush of hearings scheduled right before the holidays, asking the Court to rule on holiday co-parenting schedule changes. By scheduling a mediation session in advance, parents can avoid Court and work out a modification that may meet their needs and interests over the holidays and reflect any significant changes since the divorce.

Coordinate Gifts and Set a Holiday Budget With Your Co-Parent

It may be helpful to discuss in advance which gifts you would like to purchase for the children to avoid similar or duplicate purchases with your co-parent. You may want to consider using a shopping app or an Amazon wish list as a starting point to decide which divorced parent will get which holiday gifts for the children. Also, it may be beneficial to establish a fair spending limit on gifts to avoid a situation where the children get more lavish and expensive gifts at one parent’s residence and more modest, less expensive gifts at the other parent’s residence. These fairness and spending concerns can be discussed in the mediation process to address some of these issues when establishing or modifying your divorce agreement.

Is One or Both Co-Parents Traveling During the Holidays?

If you plan on traveling with the children over the holidays, be sure to check with your parenting plan agreement and follow the parameters established when it comes to holiday travel. Many agreements have travel restrictions and communication rules in place. A thorough review of your agreement should get you familiar with the terms for any holiday travel to occur without incident or disagreement. In today’s COVID-19 world, travel concerns may be a source of conflict that can be addressed in mediation.

Implement a Co-Parenting Holiday Schedule

One of the benefits of Divorce Mediation is discussing holiday traditions with one another and crafting a customizable holiday parenting plan that works in the best interests of your family and your children. A “one size fits all” guideline or statute may not work for you and your family. When creating a Holiday Parenting Plan, it can be helpful to discuss details in your agreement to avoid confusion over terms that could allow for multiple interpretations, resulting in Court intervention in the future. If you choose to have vagueness in your agreement, then you should consider having a “tie-breaker” in place for areas of disagreement over the holidays. This “tie-breaker” should alleviate the need for Court intervention in the future.