The holiday season can be a very stressful time, with shopping, decorating, baking, wrapping, and a busy schedule of parties and family gatherings. For some parents, however, the stress is increased by the burden of an ex-spouse and a shared child custody arrangement. Especially if this is a newly separated couple's first holiday season apart, navigating the custody waters can be complicated and frustrating.

However, according to family law attorney Stacy Schneider, splitting holiday time between two divorced parents does not have to be difficult or dramatic. If both parents keep the best interests of their children at heart, are willing to cooperate, and keep a level head, the holiday season can be stress-free and fun. Schneider offers a few tips for avoiding and navigating holiday-related custody battles.

  • Make a plan and stick to it: It is best to sit down with an ex-spouse or the other parent of your child and make a holiday visitation plan well in advance, before the stress of the season sets in. Instead of just verbally communicating and deciding on this plan, make sure to get it in writing to avoid any confusion.
  • The design is in the details: Make sure to get every detail worked out, including who is going to transport the children, pick-up and drop-off times and locations, and even planned holiday gifts, to avoid later disagreements.
  • Kill them with kindness: Although it may be the last thing you want to do, being kind to your ex-spouse will be the quickest path to holiday harmony. Be open to negotiation, or if you can spend the day in the same room without fighting, agree to spend the holiday with your children together.

The holidays are a time for family, togetherness, and making memories. If you work at it, you, your children, and your ex-spouse can have a happy, harmonious holiday season.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Avoiding Holiday Custody Tug of Wars", Stacy Schneider, 10 November 2010