Preparing for the holidays presents a unique set of challenges for divorced parents. They must face the prospect of spending the holidays (or at least a portion of the holidays) without their children, and they must be careful to ensure that their holiday plans align with the terms and conditions of their custody order.
While divorced parents will be able to adjust over time – although spending the holidays away from one’s children is never easy – navigating the holidays can be particularly challenging for newly-divorced parents. If you are preparing to go through your first holiday season as a divorcee in Arizona, here are some tips to consider:
1. Make Sure You Know Your Custody Rights
While divorce settlement agreements typically establish a routine parenting schedule, they will also typically include exceptions for the holidays. As the holidays approach, make sure you know when you are entitled to spend time with your children. While some parents will agree to each spend a portion of each holiday with their children, others will agree to spend entire holidays with their children in alternating years. There are other possibilities as well, and you need to make sure you know what you agreed to accept during your divorce.
2. Make Sure You Know Your Former Spouse’s Custody Rights
In this same vein, you should also make sure you know your former spouse’s custody rights. This applies not only with regard to parenting time but also with regard to matters such as approving travel and talking to your children on the phone while they are with you. You will want to make sure you comply with the terms of your arrangement, as failing to do so could lead to unnecessary confrontations during the holiday season.
3. Prepare Yourself for a Different Holiday Experience
When preparing for your first post-divorce holiday season, it is important to acknowledge your feelings. Accept that things will be different, and try to really envision how you want things to go. While parents don’t necessarily need to hide all of their feelings from their children, parents do need to provide a sense of stability—especially when things are different than they used to be.
4. Tell Your Children What They Can Expect
Another way newly divorced parents can help their children enjoy the holiday season is by telling them what they can expect. Discuss your holiday plans, and let them know when they will be spending time with you and your former spouse. This will help to remove any lingering uncertainty from the equation, and it will help your children cope with any feelings of anxiety they may be experiencing as a result of your divorce.
5. Tell Your Children What They Can’t Expect
Many children, especially younger children, will have high hopes that the holiday season will bring their parents back together. It is important that parents gently – but firmly – dissuade their children of any such hopes or expectations. Experts recommend that parents talk to children differently based on their age (with age being a rough proxy for emotional maturity), but, in all cases, parents must be careful not to make their children feel embarrassed or ashamed about their feelings.
6. Start New Traditions
When going through the holidays after a divorce, it can be hard not to think about the past. But, looking toward the future is often the best way to help children cope and begin the process of moving on.
With this in mind, during the holidays, newly divorced parents should think about starting new traditions. These traditions don’t have to be elaborate. Simply trying new foods or playing a new game can be enough to create lasting memories that you and your children will look upon fondly.
7. Make the Most of the Time You Have with Your Children
Since you won’t be able to spend the entire holiday season with your children, you will want to make the most of the time you have. Plan ahead, make sure you aren’t spending hours in the kitchen while your children are behind their screens, and find meaningful ways to spend time together. If you are responsible for picking your children up from your former spouse’s home, be sure to be there on time.
8. Work Out Any Potential Issues with Your Former Spouse in Advance
If you are concerned about any potential issues, such as getting approval for travel arrangements or arranging transportation between households, try to resolve these issues in advance. This will be best for everyone involved; and, once it is over, it will relieve you of a significant amount of stress.
9. Don’t Let Disagreements Get Out of Hand
If you and your former spouse are prone to getting into disagreements, try hard to make sure any disagreements during the holidays do not get out of hand. Do your part to keep your conversations amicable, and, if your spouse lashes out, resist any temptation to respond in kind. If a disagreement can be resolved by referring to your custody order, you may be able to move forward by reminding your former spouse of the terms and conditions to which he or she has already agreed.
10. Take Action Promptly if Your Former Spouse Violates Your Custody Order
Finally, if you cannot resolve any disagreements amicably – or if your former spouse violates your custody order – seek professional help. A child custody lawyer will be able to explain your options and take appropriate legal action if warranted. Hopefully, it won’t come to this; but, if it does, taking action promptly will give you the best chance to achieve a quick resolution and return your focus to enjoying the holiday season.
Contact Weingart Family Law in Phoenix, AZ
If you have questions about your child custody rights (or any other issue related to your divorce), we invite you to get in touch. To schedule a free and confidential consultation with a Phoenix child custody lawyer at Weingart Family Law, call 480-542-0099 or get in touch online today.