Amicably co-parenting is a big challenge for many couples during and after divorce. When you add holidays into the mix—along with all the memories and traditions tied to them—emotions can really run high. Taking proactive steps early in the divorce process is key if you want to avoid holiday co-parenting drama and minimize stress for your children. The following three tips can help set the stage for peaceful co-parenting this holiday season and beyond.
Tip No. 1: Put your child’s needs first.
We get it. Divorce is stressful for you. You may even be really angry with the other parent right now. But your kids shouldn’t end up with bad holiday memories because their parents can’t play nice. As a general rule, it’s best to put your child’s needs first and take the high road. It’s also better for your child’s mental health if you don’t say negative things about the other parent in front of them.
In the early stages of divorce, try to keep the holidays as “normal” as possible for your kids. This may involve maintaining certain traditions that are important to them, like opening gifts from Santa on Christmas morning. As children get older, you may consider making new traditions, like an annual holiday trip. Just try to avoid making any big changes early on.
Tip No. 2: Negotiate a good holiday schedule in the first place.
In the state of Texas, there is a standard possession order that spells out which parent the child spends certain holidays with and when. For example, the Christmas-Hanukkah-New Year’s holiday is split into two periods, with one parent getting possession even years and the other parent getting possession odd years. Parents also alternate who has the children at Thanksgiving.
Unfortunately, the standard possession schedule doesn’t cover all of the holidays, like Halloween. It also doesn’t take into account those holiday traditions that are important to both sides. (Take a deeper dive into how Texas handles holidays after divorce here.)
While our Fort Worth family law firm doesn’t advocate creating overly complex possession schedules, we do help clients negotiate deals that take into account holiday traditions they want to preserve.
For example, say Christmas Eve is a big deal for you, while Christmas Day is a big deal for the other parent. You could each agree that the child spends Christmas Eve with you and Christmas Day with your ex every year, even though only one parent typically has possession of the child during Christmas.
The key here is to KEEP IT SIMPLE. Focus on what’s really important to you and don’t go overboard. If you press for too much, that could anger your ex (and the judge), and you could end up with a less than desirable outcome. An experienced divorce attorney can help you negotiate a fair deal that works well for you and your kids.
Tip No. 3: Try to be flexible when possible.
Many lawyers will advise their clients not to deviate from the possession order, especially in the beginning. While our Tarrant County divorce attorneys think that’s really good advice, it should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Some parents actually co-parent well together—they go to family reunions and birthday parties, and they trade days on occasion. They know that amicably co-parenting is best for the kids. They also understand that co-parenting involves some give and take. For example, say one parent wants to keep the child for an extra day for a holiday trip because airfare will cost less. The other parent agrees because they know that favor will be returned in the future if necessary.
In cases where parents really struggle to co-parent, being flexible can be more difficult. However, if cutting the other parent a little slack will benefit your child, it may be worth considering. Your willingness to be flexible could also help ease tensions a bit between you and your ex.
Don’t get along well with your ex? Get more co-parenting tips here.
Need a divorce attorney with top-notch negotiating skills?
If you live in Tarrant County, the experienced attorneys at the Sisemore Law Firm in Fort Worth are here to help. To schedule a confidential case review with our founder Justin Sisemore, call our office at (817) 336-4444 or visit our contact page to connect with us online.