10 Holiday Visitation Tips for Divorced Parents

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Many divorced or separated parents dread the holiday season because they have to coordinate visitation with their children’s other parent.  Here at Murdoch-Kitt Law we work with many families on these issues, and because of our experience, we have collected a few tips to help holiday visitation run smoother.

  1. Read your Court Order. As soon as you start planning for the holidays, read your Court Order.  There may more details about visitation in your Order than you think or remember.
  2. Think of your children first. Try to envision what would give them the best holiday experience. Factor in travel time and who will be at major events like Christmas dinner.  What would your child enjoy? Is there anything you should take the time to prepare them for beforehand with their other parent?
  3. Talk about it. Choose a mode of communication with the other parent where you can relay your thoughts in a non-confrontational way, whether phone call, face-to-face, email or text.  Try to get your points and ideas across without re-stoking old arguments or points of contention. You are planning something for the future here for your children, not dwelling on the past.
  4. Follow your Order. If there is a notice requirement as to holiday visitation plans, try to stick to it as close as possible.
  5. Pick a time. If you don’t have a notice requirement, try to agree on notice, so that everyone can set their expectations. A month or two weeks ahead of a major holiday, visitation plans should be discussed.  If everyone knows the plan and is comfortable with the plan, including your children, visitation will run smoother.
  6. Be realistic. Remember that creating plans with the knowledge that they will be difficult to execute, or that the other parent will probably not cooperate, will put unnecessary stress on your children.
  7. Get acceptance from your side of the family. Make sure that your parents, cousins, siblings or whoever will be involved understands the plan.  Having your family on board will reduce the tension in the transition between houses and traditions.  Talk to your family and make sure they know not to disparage the children’s other parent or other plans.  They are part of what will give your children a positive experience for the holiday.
  8. Exercise your visitation. It can have a negative impact on your children if you have court-ordered visitation, and you do not use it.  Sooner or later your children will be aware of it.  It is very important, especially around the holidays that your children feel wanted.
  9. Roll with it. If something doesn’t go perfectly to plan, take a deep breath and try to focus on your children. Having a screaming match on Christmas because your children were dropped off at Noon instead of at 10 a.m. will stay in their memory much longer than the 2 hours lost.  Only address issues on holidays if they concern health or safety, everything else can wait.
  10. Enjoy! From all of us at Murdoch-Kitt Law, Happy Holidays! We hope these holiday visitation tips help you relax and enjoy the quality time and memories you will make with your children.
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