The holidays are such a magical time of year, especially if you have children. But if you are going through a divorce, your family will need to establish new traditions. Holidays must now be split between two family units. Until the judge orders a holiday schedule or you and your ex reach an agreement about it, each party is usually equally entitled to a holiday. This can create a lot of stress during an already stressful, busy time of year. So how do you determine how holidays should be split?
Mediation and Collaboration
If you choose a courtless divorce option like mediation or collaboration, professionals will assist you and your spouse in creating a holiday schedule that works best for both of you. It may be more important for your side of the family to celebrate certain holidays than it is for your spouse. Likewise, there are probably some holidays you don’t care about that are important to your ex. One or both of you may want to have the opportunity to travel during certain holidays. All of these matters can be addressed more thoroughly if you participate in a form of alternative dispute resolution than if you let the judge decide for you.
If you are collaborating, a neutral facilitator (usually a licensed mental health professional with special training in family dynamics and childhood development) will guide you and your spouse through sensitive conversations regarding holiday time-sharing. The Facilitator’s education and experience will be useful as you navigate these difficult decisions. If you are utilizing a child specialist, she will bring a voice to your children so that you can create a holiday schedule that best meets their desires as well.
In Litigation, You May Be Stuck With A Judge’s Schedule
In contrast, if you choose to litigate and are unable to agree on holiday timesharing, the judge will decide for you. The judge will likely divide the holidays evenly, giving each parent certain holidays in even years, and then swapping those holidays in odd years. Or, the judge may order that holidays don’t effect the timesharing schedule. While these are fair ways to share the holidays, they may not practically work for your family. And you will be stuck with the judge’s schedule if you cannot agree otherwise with your ex.
Regardless of how your holidays are separated, remember that the holidays are important times for your children to build good memories. Don’t let your personal issues with your ex take the shine off these special times. Always put the best interests of your children first.
Adam B. Cordover is a Collaborative Attorney and Florida Supreme Court Family Law Mediator. He is author of an upcoming American Bar Association book on Collaborative Practice.