Listen, we know. You probably want to talk about green bean casserole, pumpkins, and sugar plums. Maybe even the big guy in the red coat—we certainly do! But before we get knee-deep in decor and side dishes, it is time to get serious about planning for timesharing for the holiday season. Who gets Turkey Day? Is Santa still real this year? Who will be making cookies on Christmas Eve? All of the questions and more need to be discussed now. If you wait too long, there may be a brawl over which grandma gets to cook for the kids on Thanksgiving.
At McCart and Tesmer, we have a great deal of experience in Family Law. We deeply understand the difficulties of navigating the holidays with someone with whom you have divorced or separated. Trust us; it can be done! The amount of friction during the process has everything to do with considering and planning into the holiday seasons ahead of time.
- Review Your Parenting Agreement. Assuming you already have a Parenting Plan in place, review your Parenting Plan by the beginning of November. If you have not sat down to review your Parenting Plan since the beginning of school, that is okay, but it is time to take another look. Consider upcoming travel (especially out-of-state and international) and the dates of school breaks that are coming up. Now is the perfect time for both parties to make adjustments for future holiday timesharing (maybe with the help of some highly qualified, seasoned lawyers like us). This way you can avoid scheduling conflicts for the upcoming holidays. It is important to prepare your child in the timesharing plan as early as possible. It will give them a great deal of ease to know the plan ahead of time. If you do not yet have a Parenting Plan in place, click here to get a free template or contact our office for a consultation.
- Consider Sharing The Holidays With Your Ex. If you do not have a Parenting Plan, many parents alternate the holidays: one parent has Thanksgiving and the other parent has Christmas Eve and morning. Obviously, this is not a one size fits all recommendation. Some situations or circumstances could make sharing a holiday impossible for some co-parents. If alternating holidays does not work, note these considerations when finding a schedule that works. First, create a schedule that is the most harmonious for your child(ren). Do not argue over transfer times (the difference of 5 or 20 minutes is not worth the fight in the grand scheme of things). Communicate respectfully and clearly because (1) the holiday will be less stressful and more special for your child and (2) you never know if your communication will used in court in the future.
- Centralize Communication. Did you know there are phone applications that were designed with timesharing co-parents in mind? We talked about OurFamilyWizard and Talking Parents in a past blog, which are still two of our favorite apps for co-parents. We thought it would be nice to share a new app, WeParent. This App provides the first 14 days free, secure messaging, calendar sync, and collaborative notes accessible for both parents. Users can add as many family members as they would like, including children above the age of 13, and messages are archivable. Apps like these can help keep communication streamlined and minimize frustration which makes it a lot easier to focus on the well-being of the children and the fun of the holidays!
- Coordinate Presents and Spending Expectations. Once you receive your kid’s holiday wish list, divvy it up! You can go 50/50 on costs or let one person get a high-cost item and let the other parent get the smaller presents. This is not the time to out-Christmas your ex by going over the top with presents. Remember that no matter the amount you spend or the number of gifts you provide, the holidays are tough for kids with two households. What is most important is that your children know you love them with or without enough ribbons and bows to cocoon the coast of Tampa Bay.
- Child Support. A talk about spending expectations for co-parents would not be complete without mentioning child support. Child support should remain the exact same for the holiday season, but there are some important considerations to make. Bank closures or employers taking leave for the holidays may cause a delay in payments. If you are the child support paying parents, stay on top of your pay schedule and amount.
- Take Care of Yourself! The holidays can be hard on parents too! Getting through the holidays after a break-up or divorce can be made easier with a survival guide, but all in all, you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of your family. Whether or not you are able to celebrate important holidays and traditions with your children, self-care is vital for parents this time of year and always. Between decorating, spending, cooking, and entertaining—make sure you set some time aside for yourself. We suggest that you take a moment during the holiday season to schedule at least one day to do an activity that makes YOU happy. Maybe it is a mani-pedi, or a brunch date with friends. Whatever you choose, this time is solely for you. When you refill your proverbial cup, you replenish your energy to pour back into your loved ones.
- Plan Substitute Holidays. Oftentimes holidays focus more on traditions and time with family than a date on the calendar. If you’re open to it, pick a new day on the calendar! Your children will likely barely notice the calendar but will remember the time spent together as a family. Perhaps create a new, but equally fun, tradition. Who says you should not have two Christmas celebrations? If you’re the parent that does not get Christmas Day this year due to timesharing, perhaps an “Elves’ Eve” or “Rudolph’s Day” is your day to celebrate!
The first holiday season after a separation or divorce can be scary and full of unknowns. Even if your holiday celebrations look a little different this year, we promise that you can get through this. The important thing is to keep it fun and loving for the kids while handling the logistics and planning behind the scenes.
The lawyers at McCart and Tesmer can help you sort out many of the complexities of your family’s restructuring, from timesharing and decision making to child support and everything in between. We can help you find ways to ease the discomfort by providing the knowledge and tools necessary for your journey. Proactive co-parenting not only works but can make all the difference in the world by avoiding any unnecessary pitfalls that may come. For further questions regarding parenting plans, holiday timesharing, exchanges, please contact us at McCart & Tesmer, P.A.