Divorces are difficult on the entire family, and it doesn't make things easier that you have to divide the amount of time you spend with your kids for birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions with your ex — especially when you're a dad who's not the custodial parent. Unfortunately, there are a lot of dads who struggle through holidays without their kids. You don't want to be one of them. So, use these tips to learn how to deal with visitation during birthdays and holidays.
Put Visitation Details in Your Parenting Agreement
When you divorce, your lawyer should help you create a parenting agreement that details custody arrangements for your children. You need to make sure your parenting agreement covers important days throughout the year, such as your birthday, your children's birthdays, major holidays, and Father's Day. Knowing what's expected ahead of time helps eliminate unnecessary arguments that could ruin the occasion. There are several different things you should consider when discussing custody during special occasions with your lawyer, including:
- Will alternating holiday visitation yearly work for your family? For example, if you alternate holiday visitation yearly, you might have your children with you on holidays in odd-numbered years and your ex would have the children during holidays in even-numbered years.
- Does it work better for your family to have your kids for a specific number of hours every holiday? While allotting a specific number of hours each holiday for visitation does allow you to spend time with your children for each holiday, it can make planning difficult — especially if you or your ex tend to travel during the holidays.
- What holidays and occasions are the most important to you. If you have specific holidays or occasions that are particularly important to you, you might be able to negotiate with your ex. For example, if you really enjoy going camping Fourth of July weekend and your ex-wife really enjoys taking the children trick-or-treating for Halloween, you might be able to make an agreement that allows you to have the kids every year for Fourth of July weekend if she gets them every Halloween.
Keep in mind, your parental agreement doesn't have to follow one set of rules, you might find that alternating years for some holidays works great, but splitting the day works better for other occasions. The important thing is that you create an agreement that works well for your family and you stick to it.
It's important to remember that the best thing you can do for your kids during holidays or special occasions is avoid arguing with your ex. To do this, you have to be willing to be flexible and listen to what your children want. For example, if you children really want to spend a holiday with your ex and it's technically your visitation time, consider talking to your ex to make alternative arrangements that allow the kids to stay with her and celebrate with your later. This way, you don't ruin the occasion by arguing and your children are happy. Because things like this may happen from time to time, it's a good idea to outline how you will negotiate changes in visitation days in your parental agreement.
Create Two Holidays and Birthdays
Unless a specific holiday or event is extremely important to you, consider celebrating the occasion on a different day. For example, you can have Christmas with your kids a week before December 25th, and let your ex-wife spend the actual day with the children. You can also have two birthday celebrations for your kids — one at your house and one at your ex-wife's house. So, if your family has a major gathering for Thanksgiving every year, consider asking your ex-wife if she's willing to have Thanksgiving at her house on a different date. Remember, the day of the week or the actual date isn't what's important. The important thing is being able to celebrate special occasions, holidays, and birthdays with your children.
For some dads, holiday and birthday visitation rules can be tough. However, it doesn't have to be hard. All you need to do is create a parenting agreement that works well for everyone in your family, and keep an open mind while you're doing it. Remember, your family is changing, so it's a good time to start new traditions. Think positive and talk to your lawyer about what's important to you and it will be easier to create a parenting agreement that works for everyone involved. To learn more, contact a custody attorney like J. Scott Braden.