Holiday Visits Present Special Challenges For Single Parents

A holiday so full of joy and hope can also be a stressful season for parents and families that have experienced divorce. Here are some common problems and tips to help solve them this year:

Holiday Travel

Many families travel during the holiday season. Although long-distance co-parents may already be accustomed to working out travel glitches, planning visits with extended family may be more troublesome than usual because of busy airports, higher airfare and tighter schedules. If one parent objects to travel arrangements, whether because of scheduling, the mode of travel, the destination or some other reason, negotiating approval can take time. You can prevent a headache later on if you discuss possible conflicts before finalizing any travel plans. Communication can reduce the impact that uncertainty has on families – especially children.

Parenting Time Schedules

Parents may need to arrange for additional childcare during the holiday weeks when children are off school, particularly if both parents work, take classes or are otherwise busy during normal school hours. Such care can be costly, especially in December, so an early discussion is the best route to making suitable arrangements for both parents and children.

Even if childcare is not an issue, commonplace arrangements like exchanges at school may no longer be possible. High-conflict parents may need to find alternative places to drop off and pick up their children. Coming together to solve scheduling problems long before the holiday break can help reduce the impact that such changes may have on families.

Holiday Plans

Solving childcare and travel issues may be the least of parents’ worries when it comes to the holiday season. Often, the most difficult discussion is determining where children will spend the actual holidays (Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or Hanukah). On these important family days, arrangements that worked well in previous years may no longer satisfy one or both parents, the children, or the extended family.

Many parents going through a divorce or separation believe that they don’t need to pay particular attention to the details of a holiday plan. They mistakenly think, “We’ll be able to work it out when the time comes.” However, the last thing parents or children need is a dispute on Christmas Eve because the plan did not specifically state when Christmas Eve ends and when Christmas Day starts. Then, you suddenly learn that your schedule is not agreeable to the other parent.

Discuss Your Current Holiday Parenting Plan Now

  • Talk about holiday arrangements now
  • This will help eliminate potential conflicts or disputes

How To Establish An Initial Parenting Holiday Schedule

  • Create a detailed holiday plan
  • Specifically define the beginning and end of the holiday, including times
  • Note which parent should have the children on that holiday
  • State which extended family members (grandparents) that the child might visit and at what locations
  • Define any other provisions for transportation, pick-up or drop-off
  • Communicate all details early and often

If there’s a conflict that can’t be resolved between the parties, court intervention may be necessary – and court intervention takes time. For more tips, the Ohio Supreme Court has developed a guide for planning parenting. Download here. 

If you need legal advice on holiday parenting issues, separation, divorce or custody agreements, contact Strauss Troy Domestic Relations Attorneys Tim Theissen or Erinn Hannigan.