Holidays can already be a particularly stressful time of the year; and what about for separating or divorcing parents and their children?
How do we keep the holiday spirit alive in the midst of everything else that is going on during this time?
Well… we know that nothing ruins the holidays more for you and your children, than fighting over holiday plans with the other parent.
In fact, being prepared and planning in advance can greatly reduce potential problems. It also gives you and your family the opportunity to experience the positive side to the holidays, such as, being surrounded by supportive friends and family and appreciating what we do have in life.
So with keeping in mind that that best defense is planning and preparation, let’s look at what you can do, as a separating or divorcing parent, to make the holidays a more pleasant time for you and your children.
Create a Holiday Schedule
If you’re in the middle of a divorce or custody matter, it’s important that you think about how you want future holidays to look for you and your children. One of the best ways you can decrease stress around the holidays for you and your kids is to develop a holiday schedule now, which maps out your plans for holidays to come. Although Minnesota law doesn’t require it, it’s a good idea to address holidays in your custody order or divorce decree.
Holidays Included in a Holiday Schedule
Most typically, these are the major holidays that would be addressed in a divorce or custody order:
- Christmas Eve,
- Christmas Day,
- Thanksgiving Day,
- The Child’s Birthday,
- The Parents’ Birthdays,
- Mother’s Day,
- Father’s Day,
- Memorial Day,
- Independence Day,
- Labor Day,
- New Year’s Eve,
- New Year’s Day,
- President’s Day,
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day,
- Veteran’s Day,
- Columbus Day,
- Rosh Hashanah,
- Yom Kippur.
The above holidays are listed only as a reference, and some may not apply to your family. The most important thing to remember is that you can choose to designate whichever holidays you’d like and as many holidays as you’d like with the other parent. For example, some parents also include Grandparents’ birthdays in the holiday schedule, as well.
How does a Holiday Schedule impact Parenting Time?
The idea behind incorporating a holiday schedule in your custody order or divorce decree is that when holidays are specifically addressed, they legally trump the regular parenting time schedule. In other words, let’s say that the kids regularly spend every Sunday with Dad. If Mother’s Day was a designated holiday with Mom, then the kids would spend that Sunday with Mom instead of Dad.
What to Consider When Making a Holiday Schedule
In addition to thinking about what holidays you and the other parent value, you’ll want to consider what holidays are important to your children. For instance, if your children have grown up looking forward to Easter egg hunts up north at your in-laws’ farm, you may want to maintain the tradition and designate Easter to be spent with the other parent.
Generally, it’s best to maintain traditions that your children have enjoyed and also to be open and flexible to starting new traditions of your own. Depending on your children’s ages, it may be worthwhile to include them in these decisions and seek out new traditions that match their changing needs and preferences.
It may also be beneficial for the children to experience some holidays with both parents. For example, maybe you designate Christmas Eve with Dad and Christmas Day with Mom, or vice versa, again taking into consideration current traditions and plans with extended family.
As mentioned previously, when working together on a holiday schedule, parents can address holidays in as much or as little detail as they like. However, when it comes to incorporating the holiday schedule into your custody order or divorce decree, it’s usually best to include language specific enough so as to prevent conflicts down the road, but also flexible enough to accommodate special circumstances that may arise and the changing needs of your children.
Why Develop a Holiday Schedule?
Perhaps one of the best reasons to use a holiday schedule in your custody order or your divorce decree is that it’s a plan that’s specifically based on your family’s own specific needs and wishes. It also keeps parents in the driver seat. Meaning, parents, rather than a court judge, are the ones making the decisions that impact how their children are raised. After all, you, not a judge, know what’s best for your children.
In addition to incorporating a holiday schedule into your divorce or custody order, it’s ideal if parents can talk and plan out additional holiday details, such as, negotiating times, location and transportation, if possible, at least a couple weeks before the holiday. It may be useful, depending on the holiday and your particular family, to coordinate gift-giving for the child as well.
Basically, it all boils down to the the fact that the more planning and arranging of these details that can be done before the holiday, the more time, energy, and desire everyone has for celebrating the holiday.
Planning holiday schedules is effective at reducing family conflict and tension because everyone involved knows what to expect ahead of time.
Not to mention, advance planning has become necessary in some cases, since some children are now faced with multiple visits, and may be trying to coordinate the holiday with divorced or separated parents, step-parents, and grandparents all in different places.
What do you think?
What are your thoughts or concerns about developing a holiday schedule? Or maybe you have additional recommendations for divorcing or separating couples on how to enjoy the holidays?
We’d love to hear what you have to say; please share your comments with us!
A local radio station, 101.3 KDWB out of Shoreview, Minnesota, has been broadcasting in the Twin Cities for over fifty years. Dave Ryan, one of the radio personalities on KDWB, hosts the “Dave Ryan in the Morning” show on weekdays.
One of the skits he performs on the show is “When was the last time you paid child support?” The following description of the skit comes from Wikipedia on April 16th, 2013:
“When was the last time you paid child support: A prank where Dave calls shady, lazy baby-daddies who spend their child support money on binge drinking. Dave invites them to take a short 3-question quiz to win an iPad mini or some other modest electronic give-away. The first two questions are a breeze, but the final one reveals what tools these wankers truly are. The ensuing rage-spewed insults from the baby mamma make this bit an instant classic.”
As a family law attorney, I would not advocate any of my clients participating in this show and airing their family’s dirty laundry in public. More importantly, creating more hostility between parents is generally detrimental to the best interests of the children.
However, I must say the skit can be enjoyable to listen to when a parent (usually a mother) decides to do it anyway. Some of the clips seem like they were taken straight out of an old Jerry Springer episode.
Downloadable and streamable sound clips from the show can be found on his podcast here: http://daveryanshow.iheart.com/cc-common/podcast.html
Obviously this isn’t a remedy for not paying child support. It does illustrate the tension and animosity a couple can have towards each other when children and financial issues come into play following a breakup.
These difficulties also highlight the benefit of parties who are willing to cooperate and try alternative dispute resolution or negotiation in a family court matter to try to reach a peaceful agreement. It’s obvious that many of these couples on the air chose to make their situation a difficult fight rather than a cooperative, problem-solving endeavor.
It also raises questions regarding privacy issues in family law matters and child support matters in particular, although I’m not sure how those would resolve.
The following was written by Judge Michael Haas after 25 years on the bench in Cass County, Minnesota. He retired in 2002, however his advice to parents in Minnesota divorce and child custody cases remains as profound as it was years ago.
The Judge’s Letter to Divorcing Parents
“Your children have come into this world because of the two of you. Perhaps you two made lousy choices as to whom you decided to be the other parent. If so, that is your problem and your fault.
No matter what you think of the other party—or what your family thinks of the other party—these children are one-half of each of your. Remember that, because every time you tell your child what an “idiot” his father is, or what a “fool” his mother is, or how bad the absent parent is, or what terrible things that person has done, you are telling the child half of him is bad.
That is an unforgivable thing to do to a child. That is not love. That is possession. If you do that to your children, you will destroy them as surely as if you had cut them into pieces, because that is what you are doing to their emotions.
I sincerely hope that you do not do that to your children. Think more about your children and less about yourselves, and make yours a selfless kind of love, not foolish or selfish, or your children will suffer.”
To Parents Involved in Divorce and Child Custody Situations
I hope that putting the best interests of your children first is what drives anyone in a child custody or divorce proceeding. If that’s not enough, there are also practical reasons in the context of a divorce case to be as honorable as you can.
The inability to get along with the other parent can reflect badly on your character in the eyes of the judicial officer and make him or her question your ability to be a mature and positive role model for your children.
In addition, putting down the other parent can indicate to the judicial officer that you are not willing and/or able to put the interests of your child ahead of your own feelings towards the other parent.
Judges have a great deal of experience with family law situations and are well able to get to the bottom of situations if one parent is truly bad for the child. Bad mouthing them, particularly in front of the children, will only reflect badly on you.
Divorcing a Husband who gave birth to your children
This is the situation facing an Arizona couple. Thomas and Nancy Beatie have been married for nine years. They have three children together. They both want a divorce now. However, they’re running into a snag.
It turns out Mr. Beatie was born a woman and had undergone a sex-change operation. Despite the change, Mr. Beatie retained his ability to give birth to children and had three children during the marriage.
The couple married in Hawaii in 2003. Mrs. Beatie is unable to have children, so Mr. Beatie conceived with donated sperm on all three occasions.
The couple are now together seeking a divorce. If not for the transgender issue it would be a fairly routine dissolution.
The Legal Status of the Marriage
Arizona has a ban on same-sex marriages. So now the judge has a quandary as he contemplates this divorce. On one hand, he can’t recognize a same-sex marriage as valid by the laws of his state. On the other, it’s not quite clear whether the couple is same-sex or a man and woman.
The judge will have to decide whether on which side a marriage involving a transgendered person falls.
Impact in Minnesota: What Marriage Validity Means
If this case were in Minnesota, the implications of whether or not the marriage was valid from the start are significant. It could influence custody rights, child support, alimony, and property division.
In Minnesota, marriage can grant certain rights and privileges, some of which may continue in the case of a divorce. If there never is a legal marriage, those rights could vanish.
Child Custody, Parenting Time, and the Holidays
The holidays are usually a great time for children. However there is one sure way to spoil a child’s experience. When both parents are fighting, being petty over little things, and putting their wants first, the child will often lose. This is true in general, but can be especially painful during what should otherwise be a joyous and happy time for the child.
The Parenting Time Trap
Holidays can often be a special time. Along these lines, parents may place great importance on this time, and rightfully so. However, because of this importance it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that this is the time to dig in one’s heels and “assert my parenting rights”.
I’m not suggesting any parent should roll over to unreasonable demands to the other. Nor should any parent facilitate contact that would put their children in danger. With this in mind, here are some suggestions to make the holiday experience as best as it can possibly be when there are parenting time issues.
Ten Ideas for Holiday Parenting Time
- The best interests of the children should come first … always
- Holidays can be a great time to build the relationship between parent and child. This goes for both parents
- Court-ordered parenting time schedules, which should include holiday provisions, are still the rule …
- … But flexibility can also go a long way towards building goodwill with the other parent and making it a better holiday time for your children
- Along those lines, building in some holiday time for each parent with the child is often the best strategy
- Understand that the other parent’s holiday decisions are sometimes based on family decisions, not just his or her own. Sometimes he or she may not be able to control a schedule conflict
- Usually, each parent places the same amount of value and importance of spending holiday time with their children
- Usually the children, especially younger ones, place the same amount of value and importance of spending holiday time with each parent
- One side is not “losing” if they generously offer flexibility to accommodate what’s best for their children
- Lastly, if any disputes over these issues go to court, a judge is generally going to be very underwhelmed with the party behaving unreasonably and disregarding the interests of his or her children. This may be especially true for behavior during the holidays.
Happy Holidays to everyone. I hope no one has to deal with bad custody situations during this time.
Obviously a divorce is a significant loss to many of the husbands and wives who have to go through with it. But even more so, divorces can affect the wellbeing, psychological health, and emotional development of children of a marriage. The following are some ways in which parents can help minimize the negative effect divorce can have on their children.
Distinguish the Parent/Parent and Parent/Child Relationships
Remind the child that it’s not their fault. Highlight the difference between the relationship between both parents and the relationship each parent has with the child.
On a related note, continue to maintain an active and positive parent/child relationship after the divorce. A child still needs this from both parents, even after a divorce. Emphasize that both parents will continue to love and care for the child.
Keep Divorce and Post-Divorce Conflict to a Minimum
This may be the most important predictor of eventual outcome for the children. Yes in many cases there are bitter, unresolved feelings between the parents. These feelings often make it easy to fall into the trap of lashing out at the other parent or speaking badly of the other parent. This is particularly harmful if it’s done in front of the child. Generally, follow the age-old adage: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
Often, a divorce resolved through alternative dispute resolution, like mediation, and coupled with a parenting plan agreement made by both parents can help reduce the sense of anger and “loss” associated with a full-blown divorce trial. This can help the parents avoid much of the anger and resentment and make it easier to be at least civil with the other parent. These alternative methods to trial are highly recommended in most cases.
Stand United, If Possible
Remember, parenting doesn’t end with the divorce. In many children’s eyes their mother and father are a cohesive unit who they refer to as “my parents”, not necessarily “my mom” and “my dad”.
Imagine the difficult choices a child may face if placed in a situation in which the child is keenly aware of the anger between both parents. The child may often be worried about showing preference for one parent by showing affection to one first or more often. Children should never have to make those choices.
Communicate Openly and Directly with the Other Parent
Parents should negotiate with each other regarding how they will resolve any parental disputes in the future. This may involve some form of direct negotiation or alternative dispute resolution. Generally, unless a child is endangered, going back to court should be a last resort of the parties.
In addition, communication should be direct between the parents whenever possible (situations with domestic abuse would be the notable exception). Children should not be used as shuttle messengers between the parents.
You Don’t Divorce Your Children
Remember, you never stop being a parent. A child deserves the best efforts of both parents to help them develop into an emotionally health and happy adult.
Divorces can be incredibly difficult both emotionally and procedurally. A divorce lawyer can help guide you through the process. This includes making it as smooth and quick as possible while still protecting and advocating for your rights.
Reasons You May Want a Divorce Lawyer
The following are some typical reasons you may want to strongly considering hiring a divorce lawyer:
- You don’t trust that your spouse will be honest and do the right thing during the divorce
- Your spouse has already shown they are vengeful, dishonest, or aggressive
- You are concerned that your spouse may be hiding assets
- You’re uncomfortable with the divorce process
- You’re not sure what to do during a divorce process and feel easily overwhelmed by the large amount of paperwork
- Your spouse has a divorce lawyer representing them
- Your divorce has special issues that need extra attention, like:
- Who will get custody of the children?
- How often will each of you spend with the children?
- Who will get child support and how much will it be?
- Are either you or your spouse entitled to alimony?
- How will marital property be split up?
- How will marital debts be split up?
- There has been domestic abuse or child abuse in the relationship
- You’re worried your spouse may become abusive if a divorce is started
- You don’t feel comfortable negotiating a divorce alone with your spouse
- Either you or your spouse has problems with drug or alcohol abuse
- Either you or your spouse has mental or physical health problems
- You would be comforted having someone help guide and lead you through the potentially complex process.
When a Divorce Lawyer Can Help if You Have Children
Children are often hit the hardest by divorces. Not only do they see their primary caregivers split apart, unfortunately some are put in between the parents in potentially horrible ways. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with the divorce process by itself. This pressure becomes even more enormous when you’re worried about the welfare of your children.
A divorce lawyer can be especially helpful in the following situations, when your spouse has:
- Been physically or emotionally abusive towards them
- Used the children to try to manipulate you
- Denied you access to your children
- Threatened to harm or take away the children if you leave
- Has already kidnapped the children
A Divorce Lawyer Gives You Piece of Mind
Ultimately, a divorce lawyer will deal with all of the legally complex issues and arguments that may need to be made during a case. The lawyer will keep you informed of your options and where the case is going. Lastly, the lawyer will allow you to go on with your life as seamlessly as possible and help you move on.