Susan and Anthony’s disagreement over how their daughter would spend Halloween amped up their already fright-filled high conflict divorce, and ruined what should have been an evening of fun for their eight-year-old. Are you and your ex haunted by the holidays and where and how your child should spend them? Read our Halloween co-parenting horror story, then get tips for how to make October 31 a treat and not a trick for your co-parented kids.
After 10 years of marriage, and one adorable daughter, Susan and Anthony separated and Susan filed for divorce. Their eight-year-old daughter, Simone, is currently living with Susan the majority of time and spending every other weekend with Anthony as well as one rotating night during the week for dinner. Susan and Anthony were able to agree to this temporary child custody and parenting time plan, but that’s about all they can agree upon at this point. They are constantly fighting over the details of their divorce, including their final custody plan and the holiday schedule that would lay out which of them spends what holidays with Simone.
It is now Halloween, and the simmering conflict between Anthony and Susan has erupted into an all out war. Anthony’s weeknight dinner/parenting time with Simone falls this week on Monday, which just so happens to be October 31. Happy this means he gets to spend the holiday with his daughter, Anthony took the day off from work so that he could spend all afternoon and evening trick-or-treating with Simone, once she finishes school. Susan had anticipated spending the late afternoon with Simone visiting houses in their neighborhood before dropping her off with Anthony. She is furious that Anthony took the day off from work and assumed, without consulting with her, that he would spend all of Halloween with their daughter. Sure, she had let him pick Simone up at school on some of his other weekly dinner nights, but Halloween was different and she resents what she perceives as an attempt by Anthony to squeeze her out of her daughter’s life.
What’s worse, Simone witnessed her mother arguing with her father on the phone the day before regarding Halloween and she is feeling confused and guilty about the holiday. She wants to please both her parents and does not want them to fight over trick-or-treating. At school that day, Simone pretends to have a stomachache. If she’s sick, she can’t go trick-or-treating at all, and maybe that will stop her mom and dad from arguing…
How can Anthony and Susan prevent their discord over Halloween from damaging their daughter? If you and your ex are in a high-conflict situation when it comes to custody or parenting time, the first and foremost concern that you should both have is the well-being of your child and what is in his or her best interests. With that concept as your guide, you should be able to put aside your differences.
Plan Ahead: If you know that Halloween (or any other holiday or special occasion) is going to be a source of contention, begin discussion about the holiday well in advance. Approach the topic with an eye towards compromise. Refusing to discuss or negotiate will get your family nowhere fast and will undoubtedly lead to a very uncomfortable Halloween. Consider sharing the day. Offer your ex time trick-or-treating after your child gets out of school while you enjoy trick-or-treating in the evening after dinner. If you or your ex simply cannot live without having your child for the entirety of Halloween, consider alternating the holiday year by year, such that one parent has Halloween with the child in odd years and the other has even years.
Avoid the argument: No matter the situation, even if you have not come up with a solution on the day of Halloween, do not engage in any type of argument in the presence of your child. It will only serve to confuse and frighten them, which is the last thing you want for your child, especially on a holiday.
Consider a court order: It may be too late for this Halloween, but if you and your child’s other parent cannot come to a resolution about trick-or-treating or any other holiday or special occasion, consider seeking a formalized court order. A family attorney or qualified mediator can assist you in drafting your own holiday parenting time schedule which will then be signed by both parents and filed with the court. This removes any guesswork going forward. If you and your ex cannot come up with a resolution, then the court will have to come up with your holiday schedule for you. This is why it is always advised that you two attempt, at all costs, to work out your arrangements yourselves, so that you have as much control over your schedules now and into the future.
Think about co-parenting the holiday: If you and your ex-spouse are completely at odds, the thought of both of you spending the holiday with your child may seem out of the question. Perhaps, however, the future may not be as conflict-laden. Begin to at least consider sharing trick or treating in the years to come. This will, without question, make your child happy, as long as you two as parents can get along and peacefully share the experience with your child. In the long run, your child will remember such an experience fondly. But, it is what you both make it.
If you are currently at odds with your ex regarding parenting time or holiday arrangements, get some advice from an experienced attorney who can guide you about your particular case. Please contact us to schedule your initial consultation with one of our qualified divorce and family law attorneys.