Happy holiday season!
As you may already be experiencing, the holidays pose challenges to co-parenting especially for families without a clear and concise holiday schedule. Financial stress, input from relatives, and differing opinions on where the children should be during which holidays can all add conflict.
Keep communication respectful
It may be tempting to add “????” to a text, insist on an instant answer, or even send an expletive ridden rant to your ex, but such messages backfire and can land you back in court with the judge irritated at your behavior. Keep your communication respectful, courteous, and brief. Focus exclusively on the children, rather than what is fair or unfair for you, or how you feel.
The holidays often involve plans made not only by you or your ex, but your respective families and significant others. Plans often change, and I frequently see clients focusing on who changed the plans and why, rather than evaluating whether the change is something they can adapt to and be flexible. For example, a parenting plan may specify that mother is to have child on Thanksgiving Day, but this year the other parent would like to have the holiday for a reason important to them. Instead of a hard “no” or getting angry, simply ask yourself whether the proposed change is possible for you and whether it would either have no impact or a benefit to your child. If the answer is yes, then consider being flexible.
Focus on the children’s needs and interests
Parenting plans prepared by the court or a mediator often omit Facetime or teleconference time from the court order. During the holidays, however, the children may benefit from having phone calls or videoconferences with the other parent, or even other relatives (i.e., grandparents, step parents). The client’s instinct is often to stick with the strict interpretation of the court order, but it is a best practice to take a step back and evaluate whether the additional contact would benefit the children. The only exception, of course would be where a domestic violence order is in effect or the court order directly prohibits such contact.
When in doubt, talk to your attorney
An experienced family law attorney can assist in guiding your communications with your ex, and even help negotiate a holiday schedule to avoid future disputes.