Navigating the Holidays: Tips for Smooth Custody Agreements and Stress-Free Celebrations


As the holidays quickly approach clients should be reviewing their custody agreements to confirm dates and times as to when they will be exercising custody during the holidays. Most custody agreement provide for an alternating holiday schedule which allows each parent to spend some time during Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hanukkah and New Years. The holidays often rotate year to year and should reflect family traditions for the children as they existed before the separation to provide stability and ease the stress on the children.

With holiday travel up more than double from last year, if you are traveling with children during the holidays, it is important to have all travel documents prepared in advance. If flying, a consent to travel with one parent should be signed by the nontraveling spouse well in advance so as not to cause delays at the airport. Additionally, parents should be prepared for long lines at airports and provide snacks, games, and downloads to occupy their children. If the child is traveling alone during the holidays, each airline has specific requirements usually connected to the age of the child. Younger children will need to be accompanied by an adult or someone from the airline. Plans should be made in advance so as not to cause disruption in the holiday schedule.

Cooperation and communication are critical during the holiday season. Both parents should exchange gift giving lists with each other so that gifts aren’t duplicated and both parents should discuss a budget so that neither parent feels the other parent either overspent or underspent on purchasing gifts for the children. I often recommend a gift from the children to the other parent. This shows respect for each parent and allows the child to see both parents as being recognized as someone important in the child’s life.

Holidays are a stressful time of year, but advance planning, open discussions and cooperation will help both parents and their children get through the holidays a little better.

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