If you are divorced or separated and your scheduled parenting plan says your children will be spending the holidays with your former spouse, you may be wondering if there’s any possible way to still see your kids on the holiday. The answer for most co-parents is: yes! Here are six practical tips to help you negotiate contact time with your children during Christmas or Hanukkah, and other days during this special time of year.
Simply Ask For More Time: Many parenting time plans contain agreements for the holidays, but are just vague enough to cause confusion. For instance, if you have Christmas Eve and your ex has Christmas Day, when is pick up and drop off time for the kids? Is it Christmas Eve night or the morning of Christmas Day? If you are on relatively good terms with your former spouse, before the holidays, try to come to an agreement about this by presenting your ex with some commonsense options. Could you do a drop off early on Christmas Day morning? Would your ex at least agree to a later pick up time on Christmas Eve (compared to your usual swap time)? You may be surprised how willing your ex is to accommodate your request for more time, especially if you are polite, respectful, and can convey that it is in the children’s best interest for this change to take place.
Offer time with the kids to help out with your ex’s holiday plans. The holidays are a busy time, especially when you have kids. Extend a helping hand by offering to watch the kids so your ex can do things like go holiday shopping or attend the office holiday party. (A nice bonus for your ex is the money they will save on the costs of a babysitter.) If your ex does take you up on your offer, make it a special night for the kids by watching a holiday movie together or baking special holiday treats.
Suggest a special event for the children. It may be possible for you to spend time with your children outside of scheduled visitation times by suggesting a special event that the children would enjoy — such as going to see special holiday festivities happening in your town, having an annual cookie bake get together with good friends or some of the children’s relatives, or going to a professional sporting event where the tickets were given to you as a holiday gift. It will be more persuasive if the event is on for a limited time (such as seeing The Nutcracker ballet, which is on stage for only a few weeks during the holidays).
Offer to pick-up your children. Your ex may welcome your offer to pick up the children from an activity that you otherwise normally wouldn’t. You can also ask your ex for consent to take the children out for pizza or ice cream for an hour before dropping the children off.
Offer to host a “sleep over”. This may work really well if your ex is planning on ringing in the new year at a party. Tell your ex to enjoy a well-deserved “night off” by letting you host a sleepover at your house, where your children can invite a friend.
Use Skype/webcam. Give the gift of facetime! Even though you are not in the same room, of course, Skype and similar options are still meaningful ways of staying connected with your childre. Offer a simple and concrete for a holiday Skype call, i.e., a 20-minute Skype call later on Christmas morning so the kids can show your their gifts.
It’s always better to get it in writing, so if you do agree to an informal change to your parenting time plan, consider writing it up and having your former spouse sign (ideally in the presence of your attorneys!), or at least get some kind of written evidence – such as a text conversation agreeing to the modified holiday plan. You may also wish to formally modify your child custody agreement to include any updated holiday agreement…and keep your holidays merry and bright for years to come.
Have questions about your child custody arrangements? Not quite sure about how to share parenting time over the holidays? Are visitation swaps tense? We can help. For answers to these questions and more, please contact us to schedule your initial attorney consultation.