Holidays and holiday schedules are hectic for most everyone, but they can be particularly difficult to navigate for divorced parents and their children. Too often, much of the negotiation around Parenting Plans has the parties using holiday time as a weapon to be wielded or a commodity to be traded as part of the larger divorce negotiation.
Collaborative Divorce, following its overall North Star of helping the parties reach a mutually acceptable durable agreement, spends time thinking about, and being intentional around planning parenting time over the holidays, often with input from the neutral mental health coach who is part of the Collaborative Divorce team.
Because Collaborative Divorce tries to minimize competitive thinking and behavior generally, discussions about how to handle holidays can be much more grounded than is typically true in divorce litigation. Rather than immediately assuming that all holidays are to be divided equally and allocated to the parties on an even year/ odd year basis as typically happens in litigation, Collaborative Divorce starts by asking more out of the box questions such as “Does either parent’s extended family have holiday traditions associated with certain holidays that the children enjoy attending that we should try and facilitate with the Parenting Plan?” Sometimes we find that Husband’s family may get together for Thanksgiving and Wife’s family may have a family gathering on Christmas Day such that the parties agree that the children will be with the same parent every Thanksgiving or every Christmas. Or Husband’s family may celebrate on Christmas Eve and Wife’s on Christmas evening such that it works out for the children to celebrate with both parents in close proximity to holidays that are important to their family. Holiday parenting time still may end up being divided roughly equally, but in a much richer way that keeps the children’s interests front and center.
These sorts of deeper conversations about how to solve problems constructively move the parties away from a bland slicing of all parenting time down the middle into something more creative that allows the children to continue to engage in family traditions with both sides of the family, maintaining family relationships that will help support the children through the inevitable difficulties that come from divorce.
Collaborative divorce cannot take away the pain of divorce or the stress that so often comes with the holidays, but it can be a helpful tool so that the divorce process does not make worse an already difficult situation.