Several of the year’s biggest holidays are just around the corner and the accompanying headaches might already be making themselves known. As a divorced parent, you already know how difficult it can be to juggle your life, your child, your ex, visitation schedules and other daily responsibilities. The holidays add even more wrinkles to what’s already a complicated system.
With some planning, and a little willingness to work together with your ex, you can come through this season with your sanity intact. Not to mention all the holiday memories you were wishing for to make all the travel, planning and stress worthwhile.
Creating and changing visitation arrangements
One of the biggest questions divorced parents ask is whether they can modify their custody agreement without going to court. The short answer is, yes. The longer answer is, yes, but it can be dangerous as you will have no legal protection should the other parent decide to stop honoring your new agreement.
Your original child custody agreement is the one legal anchor regarding who spends time with your child and when. No matter how much you informally discuss and agree on changes with the other parent, if they wake up and decide they no long want to honor your agreements, there is nothing legally stopping them from doing so.
This is why formally modifying your custody agreement is so important. If the time and money investment of going to court is a factor, consider speaking with a mediator. A mediator can expedite the process at a lower cost, but the mediation process will require you to rationally negotiate with your ex – something not all former couples are able to do.
Whether you are planning to renegotiate your custody agreement or trust that a verbal agreement between you and your ex is enough, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
Think about what your child wants– There is something to be said for familial obligations around the holidays, but don’t force your child to do several things they don’t want to. It will only lead to resentment on their side and make them more resistant to holidays in the future.
Keep your child involved with the planning process– Your child is a person, remember to speak to them like one. While remaining neutral, ask them what they want out of their holiday and ask how they would like the schedule to go.
Don‘t deviate from the plan – Changing plans can be hard on everyone involved. Once you have a plan, don’t change it even further. This will add extra stress and may even lead to the other parent not honoring the new plan if you haven’t legally changed the custody agreement.
Be willing to give ground – Effectively negotiating custody rests heavily on give and take. For example, be willing to give the other parent custody during a spring holiday or your child’s next birthday if you can spend Thanksgiving Day together.
The holidays are a stressful time of year for many people. With a little foresight and pre-planning, you can alleviate some of the stress divorced parents often feel. By working together, you can have a happy holiday season full of great memories.