The holidays can be a particularly challenging time for divorced parents who are sharing custody. They must maintain a balance between ensuring their children have a memorable and joyful experience and also managing their households and careers. Several co-parenting disputes can arise during this time, and addressing them proactively can minimize stress for all parties involved:
Here are some of the most common holiday disputes and ways to avoid them:
- Scheduling conflicts — Coordinating holiday schedules can be complex, especially if both parents have different traditions or expectations. Parents should establish a clear and detailed parenting plan well in advance. Consider alternating holidays annually or dividing the day to allow each parent quality time with the children.
- Gift-giving disputes — Differences in financial situations or personal values may lead to disagreements about the type or amount of gifts each parent provides. It is constructive to communicate openly about gift-giving expectations. Establish a budget for gifts and discuss any big-ticket items in advance to avoid surprises or disappointments.
- Communication breakdown — Lack of communication between co-parents can lead to misunderstandings or conflicting plans. Use effective communication channels, such as a shared calendar or a co-parenting app, to keep each other informed about holiday plans, events and changes in schedules. Regularly check in to ensure everyone is on the same page.
- Tradition conflicts — Disagreements may arise when parents have different ideas about which holiday traditions to uphold or introduce. Discuss traditions that are important to both parents and, when possible, find ways to incorporate both families’ customs. Flexibility is key to compromises that accommodate everyone.
- Travel disputes — Deciding where the children will spend the holidays can be a significant source of contention, especially if one parent lives in a different location. Plan travel arrangements well in advance, keeping in mind the children’s preferences and any existing custody agreements. Be open to compromise so as to find a solution that works for both parties.
- Involvement of extended family — Differences may arise when one parent wants the children to spend time with their extended family, while the other prefers a more intimate celebration. Your parenting plan should clearly outline expectations regarding extended family involvement. Be willing to negotiate and find a balance that allows the children to connect with both sides of their family.
- Last-minute changes — Unexpected events or emergencies may lead to interruptions in holiday plans, causing stress for both parents. Keep each other informed about any changes as soon as possible and work together to find a suitable solution.
Many courts in Michigan have standard parenting time schedules which cover holidays. These schedules generally provide that the parties will alternate holidays on a yearly basis.
Successful co-parenting during the holidays requires communication, flexibility and a commitment to putting the children’s well-being first. A parenting plan crafted by an experienced child custody attorney can set clear guidelines and address potential disputes before they escalate, which can contribute to a more harmonious holiday season.
Dawson Family Law, PLLC advises Michigan clients on child custody issues and other family law matters. To arrange a free initial consultation at my Sterling Heights office, please call 833-671-4445 or contact me online.