Keith B. Schulefand, Esq.
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How will your parenting plan look during the holiday season?

Couples with kids traditionally wait until after the holidays to file for divorce. Unless the divorce is drawn out, this will be the last holidays as a couple, which can prompt both parents to think about how they want to celebrate the holidays with their kids in the years to come.

Start by asking yourself some questions

Parenting plans often will simply alternate years and holidays. For example, even number years means Christmas with dad. Odd number years mean Christmas with mom. The parent who doesn’t get Christmas gets Thanksgiving. And so on. However, different families have different priorities. You can determine priorities by asking yourself some questions:

What are my holiday priorities? Perhaps one side of the family really goes all-out for Thanksgiving but does not travel or make a big deal out of Christmas. What if there is a family trip for New Years: How will this work going forward? Is it possible to visit both sets on grandparents on Christmas? Will the parents celebrate the holidays together?This can depend on the circumstances of the divorce and the relationship with the extended family. However, the priority should be what is best for the children. Experts believe that it is better for younger kids to have both parents there. Alternating or sharing the day can occur as they get older. Parents with teens may simply ask the kids what their preference is.

How will we handle gifts? Co-parenting is not competitive parenting. Parents should avoid trying to outdo each other with the number or the extravagance of gifts. Those who went through a high conflict divorce may have no interest in talking, but discussing a list of gifts and even sharing credit for larger items is good idea. It shows a unified front to the kids, avoids duplication of gifts, and reins in that competitive streak. It is also recommended to honor the wishes of a parenting if they say, “No new phone” or “No toy guns.” To dismiss these wishes will cause unnecessary tension.

All arrangements should be in writing

Custody and parenting plans can be the most contentious areas of a divorce. It is recommended that an attorney work with parents to protect their rights as a parent and an individual. They can also help draft an agreement that fits the needs of the kids while remaining workable for the parents. By putting the arrangements in writing, the parents ensure that each side understands their obligations. If changes need to be made, the agreement can then be modified to fit the changing needs of the family.

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