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The Most Valuable Christmas Gift for Children: Peace

Ah, the holidays! The Christmas trees, the eggnog, the hustle, the bustle, the arguing with your ex over timesharing with the kids . . .. Few things can put a damper on what is usually the best time of year for children like seeing their parents stressed and arguing over who gets them and when. A thoughtful and well-drafted parenting plan can go a long way toward ensuring your family’s holiday season is a joyous and tranquil one.

Once a parenting plan is incorporated into a final judgment of paternity or dissolution of marriage, it is not easily modified; proper planning is critical to getting it right the first time. There are standard timesharing arrangements that work well for most families and take into account the physical distance between the parents’ homes. Since every family is unique, though, these standard timesharing arrangements can be tweaked to better suit the needs of individual, modern families. 

Some families prefer to rotate the holidays so that one parent will have the children for a given holiday in even years and the other parent gets that holiday with the children in odd years. Other families prefer to split the holiday in half each year if they live in the same general vicinity. Some holidays are often more important to one of the parents than the other, especially if that parent enjoys holiday traditions passed down through generations and wants the same for their own children. The timesharing schedule can be drafted to allow one parent to have a certain holiday with the children each year if the other parent is not sentimental about that holiday.

The place and time of exchange can also be tailored to accommodate the physical distance between the parents, the economic resources of the parents, and the children’s ages. Some parents drive to the other parent’s home to pick up the children at the start of that parent’s timesharing; other parents meet at a midway point if the distance between them is great; others travel by air to start their timesharing.

While the parenting plan is there to provide a reliable, set schedule if the parents don’t agree to a different arrangement, It’s important to understand that parents can always agree between themselves to deviate from the parenting plan; e.g., If the extended maternal family has a special holiday cruise planned for the whole family, but during what is scheduled to be the father’s Christmas holiday with the children, the father can always simply agree to let the mother have the children during his timesharing. The mother could give the father another holiday with the children or make-up time later in the year. The key is to have a parenting plan detailed enough so parents have a reliable schedule if they can’t agree otherwise, but then to approach the actual timesharing with a spirit of cooperation and flexibility, and always with the goal of putting the children first. This is what healthy co-parenting is all about, and not just during the holiday season.

It is also important to consider the future when planning timesharing for the children during the holidays and school breaks. Splitting Christmas Day in half with the other parent might seem to make sense now if you both live locally and your child is an infant, but this arrangement won’t work when your child becomes a teenager, and you want to take her on a ski vacation for a week.

If you need representation in a dissolution of marriage or paternity action and seek to get it right the first time with a thoughtful, thorough parenting plan, schedule a consultation with one of our experienced Family Law attorneys at the Rice Law Firm. 

Happy Holidays from all of us at the Rice Law Firm!