Remember, the happiness of the children comes first. They are not party to the divorce, yet they are subject to the terms and conditions.
The court said, and you agreed to share the holidays with your ex-spouse. The year is coming to an end and things have been working well, however you just received a phone call: A parent is ill, company is coming, flights have been cancelled, they must work on the holiday or they are planning something big and want the children included. In short, they want to change the agreed upon – included in the divorce degree – holiday visitation schedule. A visitation schedule, including holidays is put in place to avoid disagreements and confrontations. No, it isn’t fair and yes, it is inconvenient, however there are some conditions under which a change is substantiated: A death in the family, an accident or sudden illness and a family emergency.
Adjusting to life as a divorced person and making the transition as smooth as possible for children requires a posted schedule, and compliance to the schedule. Children, although they go along, aren’t as emotionally flexible as they appear to be. Changes can be devastating for a child. There are two parenting plans, one is a loosely determined plan where parents plan and schedule blocks of time which are subject to change. The other is a court order consisting of set days with set hours, holidays, pick-up and drop-off times and locations. Regardless of which plan you are on, or how unagreeable divorce proceedings were, for the child or children’s sake, communicating is a must.
Divorced couples who find it easy to communicate can meet and discuss last minute changes to the holiday visitation schedule. Often new family members are involved – he/she has a new spouse, friend or partner. They should be made aware of visitation and holiday schedules. Accepting you means accepting your children and the responsibilities and court ordered obligations you are required to follow.
Step-parents often find complying to a schedule they weren’t privy to discerning. They may have children of their own, or children have been added to the new family. Putting your children first when a new spouse or partner is in the picture is an obligation. Changes in family structure does not alter or change a visitation schedule. Open, honest communications is a must. When things fail to work and one of you is consistently late or fails to show up at the agreed upon place on time, meet with a Family Law Attorney. Term and conditions can be changed if both parties agree. The attorney can draw up a revised parenting plan and a return to court can be avoided. However, if the ex-spouse fails to comply or refuses to accept the revised plan, returning to court is required.
Putting the children first, particularly during the holidays is crucial. It’s not unusual for both parents to want Christmas eve and Christmas morning. It’s not unusual for children to have a preference and to push back as the holiday draws near. Rather than talking about rights – talk about the love both of you have for them. Discuss the importance of having both parents in their lives throughout the year and during the holiday season.
How should we handle changing the holiday visitation schedule? Aside from following a court order, parents who live in the same city or town might split the hours of the day. This can be hard on the child or children and challenging for parents moving children back and forth. Others plan around the holiday – one parent having the weekend before and the other the weekend after. Small children, adolescents and teen need consistency and stability. Changes should be made as far in advance as possible and children should be made aware of the changes and when possible told why you agreed to the change. Older children might be included in the decision making, especially if they are involved in extra-curricular events. The happiness of the child or children comes first. They are not party to the divorce, yet they are subject to the terms, conditions and lifestyle changes that come with divorce.