by Katie Sherman, Esq.

It’s that time of year again: the Holiday Season. A time of year that is filled with tons of cooking, shopping, and traveling to see relatives. Your children are out of school and are able to focus on the important task of perfecting their Christmas list for Santa Claus.

The Holiday Season is a time when families and friends come together as they celebrate “the most wonderful time of the year”. Right? Well—for some people that is the case. However, as joyous as this time is for most people, it can also be a very difficult time of year for others, especially those who have recently gone through a divorce.

As a family law attorney, I have to counsel clients who are going through the many struggles that accompany a divorce. One of the most significant struggles: co-parenting.

One co-parenting struggle that arises during the holidays is the children’s visitation schedule, specifically: “which parent gets to open presents with the children on Christmas morning?” This can be a point of contention for many families. Of course both parents want to see the joy on their child’s face as they wake up on Christmas morning and excitedly run to see what Santa has left for them under the tree and in their stockings. However, for parents who have recently divorced, Christmas morning will likely look a little different.

Some child custody agreements provide that parents will have Christmas morning with their children every other year, and some are worked out different ways. Some parents choose for one parent to have the children every Christmas Eve, while the other will have the children every Christmas morning. Parents can come up with all sorts of arrangements for the holidays, so they can spend the most time with their children during such a special time of year.

However, parents decide to work out the visitation schedule, the most critical thing to remember is that they should put their children first. “Putting your children first” seems like an obvious notion, but actually putting it into effect can be more challenging than expected, especially during the holidays, which are usually hectic and filled with different activities. Trying to co-parent with your ex and adhering to strict time schedules so that each parent gets their share of time with their child can present problems.

A lot of parents have questions about whether to stringently adhere to the custody agreement and visitation schedule, or if it is okay to allow an extra hour here or there for pick up and drop off of the children, or if the parents should trade days to help out their ex. The answer to all of these questions can be answered easily if you simply put your children first. And sometimes that means compromising with your ex and being flexible with the visitation schedule.

If your children are begging to stay at your ex’s house until 6pm on Christmas Eve, even though your custody agreement specifically states 4pm, decide if those two hours are really worth upsetting your children and fighting with your ex. Maybe your children just want to finish a movie with their step-siblings, or maybe they are visiting with cousins they haven’t seen in a while, and just want a little more time with them.

Just put yourself in their shoes, and understand that while it’s a difficult season for you, it is even more difficult for your children, especially if you and your ex cannot co-parent effectively. Regardless of what your situation is, whether you’ve been divorced for years or it’s your first Christmas after a divorce, just remember: the best gift you can give your children is amicably co-parenting with your ex.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or comments at (228)224-6781 or