The Patch of West Hartford, Connecticut, recently ran an article where Susan Busby, a Collaborative Family Law attorney, discusses the difficult topic of custody during the holidays. The article, titled “Collaborative Divorce: A Route to Happier Holidays,” urges families to learn about the Collaborative Process as way to keep children out of disputes between parents. You can read an excerpt of the article below:
The holiday season is often stressful, and for those going through or having just gone through a divorce or separation, the season can induce even more stress, intensify negative emotions, and accentuate how much their lives have changed. But it is entirely possible to have a joyous and peaceful holiday season, even during a big change in family structure.
By choosing a collaborative divorce, separating parents can create the holiday plan together to determine best options for everyone, focus on the well-being of the children, develop new cheerful traditions, and lay the foundations for having a good working relationship post-divorce.
“By coming to an agreement collaboratively, both parents have input into the holiday schedule instead of having a judge telling parents what the holidays will look like,” said Susan Busby, an attorney with the Connecticut Collaborative Divorce Group (CCDG). CCDG is a Hartford-based group of professionals that aims to keep divorcing couples and their children out of court using a method of family conflict resolution called Collaborative Divorce. “In a Collaborative Divorce, the values and traditions of the parents and the children can be honored and not used as leverage between the parents to get something else, which can happen in traditionally litigated divorces. Working out the holiday plan together is better for the children and for parents. Then everyone can relax and enjoy the holidays.”
Busby suggests maintaining traditions as much as possible so that the children’s experience of the holidays changes as little as possible. “Even with large extended families and multiple days and times of family visits, the parenting plan can include all of it so the children don’t miss out,” she said. “Parents may decide to celebrate together; there are no rules against this. Where traditions cannot be maintained, however, I encourage parents to create new traditions, maybe something they have wanted to try out. I also suggest having detailed holiday plans so that if either parent remarries, he or she is not caught between old and new spouses and can refer back to the parenting plan as needed.”
With the input of mental health professionals, the collaborative process can also focus on coping strategies, new traditions, and alternative plans for the parent without family time on a major holiday who may be alone and feeling sad.
“Not seeing your children on a holiday can be devastating for parents,” Busby said. “Alternative dates, celebrating together, and splitting holidays are all ways to try to resolve this but sometimes both parents still want the same day and don’t want to spend time together. The parent without parenting time may be alone and can be reminded of the great loss of family time. I counsel parents not to discuss any discontent about the plan with the children to avoid having them worry about the other parent. Children are not concerned with the date on a calendar when it comes to spending time with a parent and/or getting presents.”
The collaborative process is all encompassing and also includes financial professionals who help guide parents through challenges with spending and gifting so as not to compete with each other. The whole collaborative team helps couples navigate divorce with dignity and discretion, discuss their issues in a safe environment, and learn new communication and problem-solving techniques to negotiate solutions that are mutually beneficial.
As in Hartford, families in Tampa Bay are helped everyday through difficult disputes via the Collaborative Process. We know that Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah can be some of the toughest times, but the Collaborative Process can help protect you and your children from the fallout of divorce.
Adam B. Cordover is one of the most experienced Collaborative Lawyers in Tampa Bay. He is former president of Next Generation Divorce, an organization with lawyers, mental health professionals, and financial professionals throughout Tampa, Brandon, Lutz, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Sarasota, Bradenton, Land O Lakes, and New Port Richey. He is co-author of an American Bar Association book on Collaborative Practice.