This holiday season, would you rather be trimming the tree with your children, or fighting with your ex about who will see the children and when? Arguments during the holidays are common and can destroy the holiday spirit for everyone. That may be one partner’s plan all along. Think ahead from the time you initially separate to try to avoid unnecessary holiday-related stress and fights.

Common Holiday Visitation Problems

Problems often arise when parents cannot amicably follow the schedule already in place or when the separation is still fresh. One parent may want to see the children because family is in town or because it would be his or weekend but feel resentful that the other parent’s holiday access takes precedence. If the holidays are especially important to one parent for cultural or religious reasons, not being able to visit with the children exactly when they would prefer can cause more stress and anger. One parent may try to get more holiday time or prevent the ex from getting their share of holiday time with the kids. 

Work schedules can cause additional problems if a parent is supposed to have custody but cannot get time off to be with the children. As you and your ex move past the hurt and anger, you will likely develop new obligations, perhaps to a new partner and their family. In New York State, mothers and fathers have equal rights to spend time with their children. Yet when you and your former spouse don’t live in the same city, it can be difficult to split holidays. As children grow, changes in their lives naturally complicate matters.

The holidays are definitely not the time for a new puppy or to introduce someone new to the children. Where, when and how you integrate your children must be decided on a case-by-case basis.

How to Create a Workable Holiday Visitation Schedule

There are several options to split holiday time fairly. Some families like to switch off holidays, allowing children to spend a holiday with one parent every other year. Some families like to spend certain holidays with children but do not care as much about other holidays. It may work best to always “give” your ex a particular holiday and “take” one that means more to you.

Other families find that sharing the holidays is more equitable. So one parent might be able to take Christmas Eve and the other Christmas Day, or one parent can have Thanksgiving and the day after while the other can have the weekend.

After all, holidays should be a time of fun and relaxation, not arguments and bitterness. Create a meaningful holiday tradition that your children will cherish in their hearts and minds for years to come.

If stress causes fights that affect your children, you need to revisit the matter. If you find yourself in an unworkable situation around the holidays, your best bet may be to speak with an experienced family law attorney who’s familiar with a variety of visitation arrangements – one of which may be perfect for you and your family. Visitation agreements can – and often should be – restructured based on changing circumstances.