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Avoiding child custody-related stress during the holidays

As the calendar year winds down, the holidays arrive in full force. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas and New Year’s Day all come in quick succession, making it the most festive time of the year, and a period of celebration for families across America. When parents do not live together, however, the holidays can be stressful for the whole family. Children may feel anxious if they don’t know where they will spend the day, and are unsure about how things will work if they are in an unfamiliar place (very young children in particular may be worried about how Santa Claus will find them). Parents may be upset that they don’t get to have Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas morning with their little ones.

The best way to avoid additional stress on the holidays as a divorced or separated parent is to plan ahead. When creating a child custody schedule, many parents include provisions for annual holidays like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas to ensure that each parent gets ample time with the children on important days. This doesn’t mean that the days are necessarily split down the middle, or that everyone is particularly “happy” about the arrangement, but it does ensure that things are fair.

An example of this would be if the parents’ court-approved custody and parenting plan provided that the mother would have the children on Christmas morning in even years, and the father would have them during that time in odd years. This is an impartial way to give both parents the opportunity to create holiday memories with the children. It is not to say that the time couldn’t be negotiated in the future or that changes aren’t possible if both parties are willing (or if a judge agrees), but it is definitely a good idea to have at least a preliminary plan in writing to avoid last-minute disagreements.

It is important for parents to remember, that although they may want to spend as much time with their children as possible on special days like these, it is in their children’s best interest to have a quality relationship with both parents; this includes making positive holiday memories. By putting negative emotions aside and realizing that the children come first, it is possible to make it through the holidays without added stress or arguing. A family lawyer can advise and help you to create a holiday child custody and parenting schedule that works for your family. For more information about this or any other family law-related matters, contact experienced Watertown family law attorney Linda Sternberg.