Divorce is hard on children of any age. Being sensitive to their needs and feelings is especially important around the holidays, when stress levels are high. Regardless of where you are in the divorce process, you will need to create a plan for the holidays that considers your child’s well-being and sense of peace. Here are a few important things to consider.
Decide which holidays to observe. Together, both parties must determine which holidays are important and should be addressed. These may include, but are not limited to: Easter, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, New Year’s, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Sometimes children’s birthdays and/or parents’ birthdays will also be addressed by the parties. In any event, major and minor holidays of importance should be addressed.
Write a clear and precise holiday access plan. Whatever the parties’ agreement is regarding holidays, it should be clear and precise so that there is no ambiguity regarding intent. Clear and precise means identifying the beginning day or date and time, and the ending day or date and time of the holiday plan. To simply reference Christmas or spring break is not sufficient. You don’t want to argue or call the police on Christmas Eve over a miscommunication about a return time. Discuss all issues early; resolve them; and specify them in writing to avoid conflicts during the holidays.
Agree to what makes the most sense. If, for instance, it is typical that there is long distance travel on Thanksgiving, do not make an agreement that splits time with the children on Thanksgiving Day. A better solution may be to alternate such a holiday.
Parties should plan ahead but be flexible. The parties may want to create a specific agreement that considers flexibility in the future. These two items are not inconsistent. People can agree to whatever they want, but in the event of a dispute, a precisely- crafted access plan can resolve the issue. Whether a Christmas event happens on December 25th or four days later on December 29th, is probably not going to be as much a factor to the child as it is to the parent who is fighting for it. Children only want to spend time with their parents, and they aren’t likely to complain that they’re celebrating on the wrong day. Two days of opening gifts rather than one? You’ll get no arguments there!
It is normal to experience stress over wanting to have a perfect holiday. Everyone wants to preserve and create family traditions, but they take planning. Whatever the ultimate schedule, do what makes sense, be flexible, make a specific plan, and hopefully everyone can enjoy the holidays.
ABOUT LINDA SORG OSTOVITZ
Linda Sorg Ostovitz is a family law attorney. Her legal experience spans more than 34 years. In this time, she has served as a leader, educator and advocate. Mrs. Ostovitz holds a prestigious fellowship in the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers. Currently, she serves as President for the Business Women’s Network of Howard County, by which she was chosen Woman of Distinction for 2014. Mrs. Ostovitz represents clients in Howard, Anne Arundel, Carroll and Baltimore Counties. Her practice focuses exclusively on divorce litigation and mediation, child custody and access, child support, alimony, business valuation, as well as property and asset distribution. In addition to providing legal representation in court, Mrs. Ostovitz provides mediation services to help families come to a fair and legally-sound conclusion outside of the traditional court proceedings.
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