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Untangling Custody During the Holidays: How the Collaborative Process Can Help

December 14, 2017 SuAnne Bryant

holiday custody and collaborative divorce

Collaborative Divorce is a process where both parties commit to negotiating a mutually acceptable resolution without having to go to court.

This requires open communication and information sharing and should create a solution that acknowledges the highest priorities of all. That means that if children are involved, their thoughts and wishes should be taken into consideration. If your child is old enough to communicate, a child specialist may be brought in to talk to them in a safe space about their needs, wants and feelings about the divorce. Collaborative Divorce does not decide “custody” or “visitation” but rather considers both parents as full-time parents with a parenting plan that they have mutually agreed upon.

This process can often sound like it’s too good to be true, and in some cases it is. There are often significant emotional issues that come up during the parenting plan portion of a Collaborative Divorce that need to be dealt with by a professional coach, mediator or even family counselor. Financial advisors may also be brought in to help both parties understand current expenses and options for the future that make sure children are provided for adequately in both parents’ homes.

With traditional custody and visitation, a judge determines the portion of time a child spends with each parents based on the limited information they have. Once those decisions are entered with the Court, it can be very difficult to change it. Sometimes this is a good thing to minimize potential conflict, but in some cases, when parents are amenable to it, a good parenting plan can be flexible enough to allow for special circumstances, a child’s wishes or any of the many other life changes we all experience.

That being said, when the holidays roll around, parents on either side of a Collaborative Divorce need to be in good communication with each other about travel plans, work schedules and school closures. But in addition to that, the child should be involved in the planning of their holidays so that they do not feel like they are simply being passed back and forth. The thing to remember this time of year is that whatever is best for your child is the best decision. Even if that means the time you spend with them is not exactly equal.

Another thing that parents should discuss around the holidays are gifts. One best practice is to set a gift amount limit so one parent’s Christmas does not seem extravagant compared to the other’s. It may also help to let each other know what gifts you are purchasing so that there are not duplicates (except for when toys or items may be beneficial to have at both homes).

Finally, you must filter out the commentary you receive from friends, family or even coworkers about why you should have full custody of your child or how horrible it is if you’re not spending Christmas day with them or what you should demand of your ex-spouse. The plan you created together, as parents of your child and with neutral parties and professionals, is what is important. Your friends and family may mean well, but those comments and conversations can cause anxiety or discontent and can cause you to act or speak out without considering what is best for everyone. Trust in yourself and your plan, communicate often, involve your child in the planning and have a wonderful holiday season.