From The Archives: Custody and Visitation Tips for the Holidays
Please note that this article was originally posted in The News Journal. Click here to see the original posting.
The holiday season can be a magical, wonderful time for children. Unfortunately, some of that magic and wonder may be lost if separated or divorced parents are not adequately prepared.
As I noted in a prior article in The News Journal, with some planning and consideration, parents can avoid disputes and help their children have a fun holiday season surrounded by the love of both households.
- Follow a contact schedule. If you have a custody/visitation order in place, make sure you know and understand your contact schedule and abide by it. If you want to change or alter what is in the order, speak with the other parent to see if an agreement can be reached.
If you do not have any order in place, work out the details of holiday visitation with the other parent ahead of time. When doing so, have a copy of your children’s school calendar handy so that you can plan for the entire holiday period. As you plan, be flexible and remember that the goal is to set a schedule that is best for your children – one that allows them to enjoy the love and traditions of both sides of their family.
If you cannot agree on holiday arrangements, consider whether the schedule proposed in the Delaware Family Court Contact Guidelines will work for you. Pursuant to the Guidelines, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are divided each year. Christmas Eve contact begins at 6 p.m. on Dec. 24 and ends at noon on Dec. 25. Christmas Day contact begins at noon on Dec. 25 and ends at 6 p.m. on Dec. 26. The remainder of the winter break from school can be shared as well. It may be divided equally each year, or parents may choose to rotate spring and winter breaks year by year so that one parent has the full winter break and the other has the full spring break.
- Plan ahead and anticipate. Whether it is making travel arrangements, setting the time for a holiday meal or even planning an outfit for the holiday portrait, plan ahead. This allows you to work with and coordinate with the other parent if necessary. Avoiding last-minute changes and issues can help both households have a less stressful holiday season.
- Be respectful. If an issue or question arises, do not assume the worst. Be respectful and treat the other parent how you would like to be treated. You may not always like or agree with the other parent, but they too serve an important role in your children’s lives.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Even in the best – and best-planned – situations and in the most ideal of households and families, issues can and will arise. No parent can win every argument or be right all the time. Prioritize the important issues and weed out the small ones. This will help you and your children to enjoy the holiday season.
- Celebrate family. Remember that your children have a right to a relaxed, secure relationship with both parents and both families.
- Cooperate. Holiday activities, such as choosing gifts, may require some coordination. This likely means that parents need to set aside their conflicts and work together to choose gifts for their children or help their children select gifts for others.
- Don’t be afraid to start a new tradition. Dividing a holiday or the holiday season may not be easy because it may disturb prior traditions. Do not let that ruin the holiday season. If you cannot find a way to make the old tradition work, start a new one. Let your children be involved in the selection and planning of the new tradition. Just because the tradition may be new or different does not mean it is not valuable or meaningful.
- Never put the children in the middle of a dispute, and don’t ask them to serve as messengers.
- Call a truce. Whatever past disputes exist, remember that this is a special time for your children. Set aside old differences and focus on providing your children with a safe and happy holiday season.
- Relax. Your children are only young once. Slow down and enjoy your time with them and allow them to enjoy the holiday with everyone.
The information contained in this publication should not be construed as legal advice, is not a substitute for legal counsel, and should not be relied on as such. For legal advice or answers to specific questions, please contact one of our attorneys.
Leslie Spoltore focuses her practice on family law, handling all aspects of the Delaware Family Court’s jurisdiction including, divorce, alimony, property distribution, prenuptial agreements, adoption, guardianship, permanent guardianship, child support, child custody, protection from abuse. She works out of the firm’s Wilmington, DE office and can be reached at 302-840-1110 or at Leslie.Spoltore@Obermayer.com