Archive for Holidays

6 Tips for Successful Holiday Co-Parenting

By Shawn Weber, Family Law Attorney and Mediator

holiday co-parenting cookies

When we think of the holidays, we think of family.  Our traditions are all about bringing the family together and celebrating togetherness. We have Norman Rockwell style images in our heads of the family (and children) gathered around the table with something delicious.  Whether it’s lighting the menorah or setting out cookies for Santa, the Holidays inspire hopes for greeting card type scenery and happy times with our children.  After all, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

However, for single parents, the holidays can be especially trying.  As a family law attorney, I typically see an uptick in custody and visitation disputes prior to every major holiday.  It makes sense that the most emotionally meaningful calendar dates for people sometimes lead to the most emotionally driven family disputes.

It is always amazing to me that a time of year for celebrating peace on earth can be so full of conflict.  Often I will get a frantic call right before a special day.

Examples are:

  • “The kids were with my ex last year. Now he wants to take them again!”
  • “I have been planning a visit with my kids to see my parents in another state and now she is ruining our plans!  I already bought plane tickets!”
  • “He is trying to buy the kids with expensive gifts.  It makes me look terrible!  He knows he doesn’t pay me enough support and I can’t keep up with him!”
  • “She is threatening to show up right in the middle of our holiday dinner.”

Below are some tips learned through years of trial and error as a family lawyer to help co-parents get through the holidays:

Tip #1:  Be Specific In Your Holiday Co-Parenting Plan 

There is a reason why lawyers write everything down.  When you have your agreement in writing, there is less opportunity for playing games.  When I draft custody orders, I try to include a written holiday schedule with specifics about when the kids will be with each parent for which holiday.  For example, a provision might look something this:

“In every even-numbered year, Sarah shall be in the Father’s care at 10:00 A.M. on December 24 until 10:00 A.M. on December 25 and in the Mother’s care from 10:00 A.M. on December 25 until 10:00 A.M. on December 26.   In every odd-numbered year, this schedule shall reverse.”

(As an aside, notice that I split up the Christmas holiday in a way that lets both parents share in the fun.  This is a very typical type of provision to consider including in your holiday co-parenting plan.)

The more specific your order, the less confusing your holiday co-parenting will be on the day of the holiday.  Remember, confusion and ambiguity breed conflict and disagreement.

Tip #2:  Don’t Wait Until the Last Minute.  Discuss and Agree to Holiday Co-Parenting Plans Early.

Planning a trip to North Dakota with the kids for winter break?  Then make your holiday co-parenting plans and get your ex’s agreement early.  I can’t tell you how many times I have seen a party make plans and buy non-refundable tickets only to have those plans dashed at the last minute because they didn’t consult with the other parent.  Talk about it early.  Agree on travel plans.  Get it in writing.

Tip #3:  Talk to each other about gifts.

It can be very awkward when both parents buy little Susie a Big Hugs Elmo.  So, make an effort to coordinate.  And please, don’t make it a competition.  It’s about your child after all.

Tip #4:  Control the Relatives.

Your child does not need to hear anyone speaking ill of the other parent over turkey, even if he really is a big jerk.  Make sure that relatives and family members refrain from bad mouthing.  Remember, that’s your child’s other parent they’re talking about.  When you allow other people to speak ill of the other parent in front of your children, it only hurts the kids.

Tip #5:  Don’t be selfish.  Share!

There is a real temptation to want to keep all of the holiday fun for yourself.  Avoid that type of thinking.  When you are co-parenting, you simply may not get to spend every holiday with your child.  It’s the season of giving—remember?  However, you may consider (if you are up to it) spending a holiday together with the ex.  Why not do the Santa thing together? It can really make a holiday special for your child if you can pull it off without fighting.  Be realistic about it, though.  If you really can’t get through an evening with your ex without throwing your egg nog at him, then go the separate route.

Tip #6:  Respect Boundaries.

If it is your ex’s year to have the kids on a holiday, remember to be respectful of her time with the kids.  Don’t interfere.  Do not try to show up at the house unannounced during dinner.  Don’t worry.  I know it may be really difficult to be away from your little ones during a special holiday, but it will be okay. Don’t let your kids be the subject of a tug of war on a day that is supposed to be merry and joyful.  Let them experience the holiday without being placed in the middle of your struggle.  Just let go—at least for the holiday.  Your ex will be grateful and will be more likely to return the favor when it’s your year.

Holidays After Divorce – Bring Peace on Earth to Your Kids

Looking at the New Year Post Divorce

new year post divorce, new year's resolutions

Alas!  A New Year has come and gone again.  For most of my current clients, 2015 was a rough year.  It brought them the end of their marriages.  The year may have been filled with conflict with a former spouse over money, kids, etc.  Perhaps there were tears shed.  Maybe dreams were shattered.  Sound depressing?  It can be.   But 2015 is over, so there is an opportunity to build a new experience for the New Year post divorce.

Here are my suggestions for some words to consider when making your resolutions for the New Year post divorce.  This is in no way a comprehensive list.  It’s just some of my own thoughts.  Perhaps you have your own resolution ideas that you would like to share.  Here are mine:

Peace.

You got a divorce for a reason, right?  I’m sure things weren’t all butterflies and rainbows.  But now you are divorced. So take the opportunity to stop the fighting and discontinue the war with your ex.  If there is a legitimate legal concern that needs addressing, use mediation or Collaborative Practice instead of adversarial litigation to resolve those differences.  It’s a great opportunity to move on and find peace in the New Year post divorce.  A meditation or mindfulness practice can go a long way towards achieving some peace.

Co-Parenting.

Before your divorce, parenting may have been easier.  Post-divorce, you still have to interact with the person you divorced to raise your kids.  Your kids need you to get along.  There is a lot of evidence that continued parental conflict after the divorce is very harmful to children.  Resolve now to be the best co-parent you can be in the New Year post divorce.  Look for ways to be cooperative (even when the other parent doesn’t).  If you haven’t always been a leader in the child rearing arena, now is the time to step up to the plate and make a helpful contribution.  Be the grown up here and your kids will thank you.

Self-reliance.

Now that you are on your own, you don’t have the other person there to rely on.  This is a great opportunity to stand on your own two feet with your head held high.  Be your own person.  Be strong. Be self-assured. Be independent.

If you are receiving alimony, look for ways to be self-supporting so that you don’t need support anymore.  Meet with a vocational counselor to make new career goals.  Enroll in school or get trained, or retrained, in a field that you can be passionate about.

Plan for your future financial well-being.  Meet with a financial advisor to make sure you are using your money wisely.  Come up with a five year or ten year plan.  Meet with an estate planning attorney to make sure you have updated your will and estate plan.

Health.

Perhaps during 2015 you let the stress of the divorce affect your health.  Maybe you didn’t eat well.  Maybe you stopped going to the gym.  Maybe you weren’t sleeping well.  Perhaps you were depressed or angry causing your emotional well-being to suffer.  Resolve now to restore your health in the New Year post divorce.

Take the time to eat well and exercise.  Get good sleep.  Perhaps get your annual physical from your doctor and make a plan for your physical health.  Take care of your body and it will take care of you.

But don’t forget your emotional health either.  Divorce can be such a toxic and painful experience.  If you are struggling, meet with a therapist and work through the changes in your life resulting from your divorce.  Before you date, make sure that you work though any lingering issues you may have so that you can be your best self before you involve another person in your life.  I have noticed a clear correlation in my clients who sought post-divorce therapy and their level of happiness years later.

Forgiveness.

I know that “forgiveness” is a loaded word.  It’s easier said then done.  You may be hurt or angry with your former spouse.  As mentioned before, you got divorced for a reason.  However, you are divorced now.  It’s time to let it go.  The past is in the past.

Now keep in mind, I am not suggesting that you allow yourself to be abused if that is what happened before.  Keep in place whatever safety measure you have to make sure you can’t be hurt again.  I am just suggesting that it is time to move on from there.  Anger and hurt can be very damaging emotions.  Do what you can this year to forgive so that you can leave those terrible feelings behind you.  If you find you can’t do it alone (and most can’t) talk to someone.  Turn to a spiritual advisor or a mentor to help you leave the past in the past.

Don’t forget to forgive yourself.  Guilt has it’s place, but it can eat you up if you can’t get past it.  Perhaps you have serious regrets about how your marriage ended.  Rather than let the guilt consume you, find a way to learn from the experience, forgive everyone involved and move on.

 You have read my list of New Year’s Resolution words for the newly divorced.  What are some of your words?  I would love to read them!

Related links:

Five Tips to Reduce Your Stress in a Divorce that Most Attorneys Won’t Tell You

10 Essential New Year’s Resolutions for Your Divorce

12 New Year’s Resolutions for Divorced Moms

New Year’s Resolutions During Divorce

Top 10 Difficult New Year’s Resolutions for Divorced Parents

New Year’s resolutions, new year post divorce, new year’s divorce, san diego divorce attorney

Holidays After Divorce – Bring Peace on Earth to Your Kids

holidays after divorce

For many of my clients, the holidays after divorce can be a difficult time.

Many are keenly aware of the loss they have suffered as the result of their divorce and will go to great lengths to preserve a sense of family.  The changes to the family, for many, are in stark contrast to the ideal Norman Rockwell Holiday memories they want their kids to have.  People also, quite reasonably, want their children with them on those special days.  All of that is reasonable, but when the wish to have your kids with you on a special Holiday turns into conflict between you and your ex, your kids can suffer.

It’s a bit ironic that in this season when we are supposedly celebrating peace on earth, some of the greatest interfamily conflict can occur and if you’re not careful, your kids will be right in the middle of a holiday visitation disaster.  Here are just a few ideas about how to bring “Peace on Earth” to your kids for the holidays after divorce:

Consider Celebrating Some Part of the Holiday Together with Your Ex.

I know, you worked hard to get away from your former spouse, but your kids didn’t.  For their sake, consider putting the past behind you and let your kids open presents with both of their parents.  That said, if you just can’t be in the same room with the other parent without it devolving into a slug fest, then reconsider.  But if you both can keep it together long enough for the kids to have a nice holiday, you will have done something very kind for them.  This is the season of giving after all.

Coordinate Presents with the Other Parent.

Much of the holidays after divorce conflict we see is when the parents compete with each other over the present giving.  Don’t let that happen.  Rather, spend some time early coordinating the gift giving with the other parent.  Perhaps consider purchasing joint gifts. Don’t let something as beautiful as gift giving turn into an ugly competition.

Don’t Project Your Own Emotions About the Holidays After Divorce Onto Your Kids.

Holiday visitation stirs up all kinds of feelings and emotions.  Regret, guilt, anger, resentment, loneliness- these are feelings that can pop up in spades during the holidays.  However, if these are your emotions, they might not necessarily be what your kids are feeling.  We have a tendency to project our own feelings and frustrations onto others, when that is usually not appropriate.  Be aware of that and keep your expression of emotions in check.  Stay selfless and make the holidays about others and what their needs are.  Be mindful, that your kids’ needs will likely include time with the other parent.

Plan the Holiday Visitation and Travel Schedule Early.

Don’t just assume that your ex will be aware of or will cooperate in fulfilling your expectations for the perfect holiday with the kids.  Communicate early and plan ahead with your kids’ other parent to reduce confusion or frustration when the holiday comes around.  Don’t assume anything about the schedule.  Don’t wait until Thanksgiving to talk about the holidays.  Start talking and coordinating in July – or even earlier.  That way, when the holiday comes around, there will be no surprises.

In summary, the holidays after divorce can be a time when cherished memories are created.  However, they can also be a time of heartache and terrible memories if not done properly.  Don’t let problems with holiday visitation be a flashpoint for your kids to remember how badly you and your ex behaved.  Let it be “Peace on Earth” for your kids.  That means that you need to take responsibility to be a peacemaker with the other parent.

These are just a few ideas.  Maybe you have some ideas or tips.  Share them with me!

Divorce Options Workshops

Forgiveness During Divorce: A key to finding peace

Happy Father’s Day! http://ow.ly/y38Qw

Happy Father’s Day! http://ow.ly/y38Qw

International Be Kind to Lawyers Day

Apparently it is International Be Kind to Lawyers Day.  I simply don’t know what to say.  Perhaps I will just sit in my office and wait for kindness to flow my way.  (Yeah that’ll happen!)  😉

So go out.  Find a lawyer.  Give him or her a great big hug.  Awwww!  (Now go take a shower with liquid hand sanitizer.)

http://bekindtolawyers.com/

Hug a Lawyer

Hug a Lawyer

6 Tips to Handle Mother’s Day and Father’s Day After Divorce

As promised, here is another article from Carolyn B. Ellis with tips for handling Mother’s Day after divorce.  These are very good tips.  I hope they are helpful!

http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/divorce_politics_6_tips_to_handle.html

If you are or someone you know is having trouble making plans for Mother’s Day in the context of a legal custody dispute, call Shawn Weber at 858-345-1616 for a free telephone consultation.

www.bravewebermack.com