Avoiding child custody woes at Christmas

Christmas means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For some, it is an opportunity to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. For others, it is simply a time to gather with the people who are most important to us—our family. At the very least, it is a time to take a short break from the stress of work. But Christmas can be challenging. Figuring out how to balance the stress of travel plans, gifts, food, family dynamics, and money is no small task.

For those who share child custody with another parent, Christmas presents another significant challenge: how to minimize conflict with the other party. Any family lawyer will tell you that the holiday season is often the most contentious time of year for people who share custody of a child.

There’s no way to completely eliminate the potential for conflict over child custody, but there are important steps that every parent should take to lessen the chances of a child custody battle at Christmas.

Step One: Know your Child Custody Rules

Parenting plans and court-ordered custody arrangements must make specific provisions for the holidays. Each party needs to read these documents carefully and know what they say. If you have worked out alternate arrangements for the holidays that deviate from the plan, you need to have these agreements in writing and have the other parent sign off.

Step Two: Follow your Child Custody Rules

The holidays are not the time to bend the rules of your custody arrangement. No matter how good your working relationship with the other parent may be, don’t expect that this flexibility extends to the holidays.

Step Three: Plan Ahead

Try to plan ahead for any contingency that might arise. Know what days you are going to be traveling and where you’ll be well in advance. When a crisis does occur, you’ll be in a much better position to avoid conflict with the other parent. If you can, share this information with the other parent so that he or she knows that you’ve made your best effort to comply with the custody arrangement.

Step Four: Be Flexible about Child Custody

Recognize that you’re not perfect and neither is the other parent. If he or she is making a good faith effort to abide by the child custody arrangement, don’t rake them over the coals when something happens. Christmas is about giving, so try to give the other parent some grace. The Holiday season is expensive enough, and there’s little reason to add court costs unless it is absolutely necessary.

January is one of the busiest times of the year for family lawyers because so many parents forget that child custody isn’t about parents—it’s about the children. Put your children first by minimizing custody conflict during the Holidays.