With Halloween behind us, now comes the busy holiday season. It’s not just stores that start to buzz with activity. As many divorce attorneys will tell you, holidays are a time when parents – yes, even those with carefully crafted parenting plans – fight over who gets to spend Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah and New Years with whom.
A Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA) is designed to lay out who has the children on which holiday. And sometimes, they are even as detailed as to say that Christmas morning will be spent with mom and Christmas afternoon will be spent with dad.
But often life can get in the way. Situations change, opportunities may present themselves i.e. the chance to take the kids to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas, or perhaps grandma and grandpa no longer can travel and you want to take the kids to see them this year. Situations that did not exist at the time the MSA was signed can often wreak havoc on the holidays.
That’s why communication, early and often, is important. Don’t wait until the last minute to drop the bomb on your ex. Do whatever you can to make sure they are aware of your intentions early. If your MSA says you must split a holiday with your ex, but you want to take the kids out of town for the entire week or weekend, talk it out ahead of time. Don’t spring your plans on the other at the last minute and not expect a fight.
Finances also can play a key role during the holidays, so don’t use your financial resources against your ex. While you may be able to afford that trip to Disney, or even buy your child that expensive electronic device they have been begging for, your ex may not have the money. Don’t make the holidays a competition. Discuss the situation with your ex and find a way to give that gift, without making the other look bad. You also may want to discuss your child’s holiday wish list with each other to make sure that gifts are not duplicated.
Try to be flexible. If something does come up and you need to switch gears, if you can make it happen without too much of an inconvenience, then why not? The favor you grant today, may need to be returned in the future.
Extended family is not always considered at the time of the divorce. But what happens when aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews decide that this is the year for a holiday family gathering? If your children are old enough, include them in the conversation. How do they feel about spending the holidays with relatives? Some ex’s are on good enough terms to include each other in their family reunion plans. If that works, all the better. If not, find a way that works for all involved, but most importantly for the children.
Create a support team for yourself. This is especially important if you will be spending the holidays away from the children. Find others who might be alone and create your own celebrations and traditions. If you are the primary caretaker during the rest of the year, take the time to take care of yourself. Relax, indulge yourself with something as simple as a massage, or if finances allow, travel.
Holidays can be a stressful time for anyone, but particularly for those who are divorced with children. These few simple steps can make it easier to navigate the holiday season and bring you into a new year with less stress and hopefully happy holiday memories.
Alan Frisher is a Licensed Financial Advisor as well as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst. His goal is to help clients understand their financial situation and to come to the best resolution based on their individual situation. For more information, contact Alan at (321) 242-7526 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.