December can be one of the best times of the year or one of the worst. With the holiday season comes opportunities for families to get together and spend extra time together. When families are split up, the time has to be divided. Often one parent feels short-changed, and sometimes events don't fit neatly into court-ordered possession schedules. Usually, however, with the passage of time parents can get into a rhythm of sharing time with the kids and everyone can operate in that system.
Here are some suggestions to help avoid major child-related problems around the holidays.
1. Avoid possession fights. Do what you can to avoid court fights.
- Review your court orders early. If there are no orders in place, you need to make plans, as does the other parent.
- Talk well in advance if you need a change. If there are court orders, you can still work out something different if both sides agree. If there aren't court orders, you both need to plan ahead.
- Be willing to compromise. You don't have all the power. Neither does the other parent.
- Keep it away from the kids. Even if you don't like what your ex does, don't discuss it with the kids.
- Model good behavior. Bad behavior will make it harder to get an agreement with your ex. Good behavior shows your kids how adults can deal with adversity and still be friendly.
2. Don't make court your first option. Courts are crowded and you may have trouble getting in during December. It's also expensive to go to court. Don't count on getting the other side to pay your fees. If you go to court, you lose control over the outcome. You're generally better off to work things out somehow.
3. Consider other options.
- Work with a therapist. More and more, we refer clients to a neutral therapist who helps them come to a reasonably quick, less expensive agreement that both sides can feel good about. Working with a therapist who is experienced with these type issues is a great solution and you may be able to deal with some longer term issues as well.
- Use a mediator. Even without attorneys, for the limited issues of some holiday time-sharing, mediation can be a quick, relatively economical alternative.
- Have attorneys negotiate. This can be a little expensive, but experienced attorneys can come up with compromises that work and that are similar to what a judge might order. If you meet with an attorney who just recommends filing and going to court, please get a second opinion. You are usually better served by negotiating.