It’s that time of year again — the Christmas season is here and people are making plans for the holidays. This can be a challenging time of year when planning family visits and holiday travel while coparenting.
Creating a coparenting holiday schedule, setting up guidelines with your former spouse, and communicating clearly with your kids will become extra crucial. Here’s how you can help coparenting during the holidays go smoothly.
Planning Ahead for Holiday Vacations When Coparenting
As part of the divorce process, parents sharing custody of a child usually have a possession and access schedule that describes how parenting time is divided. This is just one of the elements that is typically included in a parenting plan created during the divorce process. A parenting plan is a great way to establish how children will spend time with each parent and is most often a formal legal document.
Coparents can decide together to stray from their possession schedule to accommodate holiday activities and travel. If you or the other parent would like to do this, it is important to give them advance notice and time to work out the details. It’s important during this time to review any and all court orders. You should also be ready to discuss the possibility of make-up visitation time in the event that your coparenting holiday schedule disrupts your regular visitation agreement.
Guidelines for Coparenting During Holidays
Many coparents lay out the expectations for planning travel with their child(ren) in the custody agreement as part of their parenting plan. Some of the rules laid out might answer questions like: What are acceptable areas to travel? Can the parents take the child(ren) out of state? How about out of the country? Does the parent planning the vacation have to get permission to take the child far away?
Coparents can also choose to require each parent to give the other a travel itinerary and specific contact information before going on vacation. This can help parents feel more comfortable while their child(ren) are traveling.
It is helpful to establish rules in the parenting plan while working with a family law attorney so each parent knows what to do. Then, a parent can confidently head out for their vacation and relax with their child(ren)!
A tool that we frequently recommend for coordinating holiday schedules and other coparenting logistics is Our Family Wizard. This app is sometimes a court-recommended resource that lets coparents streamline their communication, making it more efficient, and hopefully, more amicable. Having a shared calendar like this can also greatly reduce miscommunications and other logistical sources of stress.
Planning Travel When You Don’t Have Established Rules
As mentioned above, parenting plans often include a rule that each parent notifies the other of any travel plans that involve their child(ren). Even if your agreement doesn’t include that requirement, it’s a good idea to notify them anyway. If an emergency happens at home and your coparent needs to contact you or your child(ren) while on vacation, it is important that they know how to do so. Conversely, if an emergency happens while on vacation that requires you to contact your coparent, they should have an idea beforehand of where you are. This is especially important when you and your coparent share legal responsibility for the child(ren) and for decision-making regarding their medical care.
Being on the same page about travel plans is one of the best things you can do to keep the peace during the holidays. Skipping this step can not only lead to friction between you and your ex, but may also ruin the holidays for your child.
Here are some helpful questions to answer when preparing to notify your coparent about holiday travel plans with your child(ren):
- Where are you going and when?
How are you getting there? If you’re planning to fly or take a train, provide information about the airline or train carrier, the flight or train number, and the travel schedule.
Where are you staying? Include an address or a phone number.
Who are you traveling with? Include a contact number for another adult who will know where you are and be in contact with you.
It’s important to approach these questions in a way that isn’t aggressive or expresses frustration (even if you’re feeling it!). Again, a tool like Our Family Wizard can help simplify these conversations, allowing you and your coparent to update travel schedules within the app for both of you to reference.
Traveling Out of State with Children
Even if your custody agreement does not specifically discuss giving notice when traveling to a different state or country with your child(ren), it is a good idea to discuss out-of-state or out-of-country travel with your coparent well in advance of any planned vacation. During this discussion, you should aim to agree on specific terms for the out-of-state or out-of-country holiday vacation. Then put these agreements in writing, so each coparent can keep a copy. You can work with your family law attorney on these agreements as well.
Keeping the Peace While Coparenting
Coparenting through the holidays is difficult in more ways than one: preserving the joy and peace of the holiday season for your children, coping with your own grief, interacting with family during a hard time. It’s important to give yourself grace throughout the process.
Even in an amicable divorce, coparenting during the holidays will sometimes be messy, complex, or confusing. It’s a learning process that takes time and consistent development to function smoothly. Taking the steps we’ve discussed will help you build a coparenting foundation that will strengthen over time.
Choosing the Right Attorney for your Family Law Case
Kelly J. Capps is an experienced family law attorney. She works hard to find the best path for her clients to move their family forward. Our goal in every child custody dispute is to help our client resolve the situation in a way that fosters positive relationships between he or she and their children and preserves a working relationship with the other parent.