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Helpful tips to prevent joint-custody issues from dampening holiday spirits

The holidays are fast approaching and with them often come the challenges of handling joint custody during one of the busiest times of the year. With hectic schedules, travel or other activities, it can be difficult to balance custody of children between parents so that each is able to spend quality time with their children. Even if parents have holiday custody schedules in place, issues still may arise that can create unwanted complications.

To help alleviate potential stress surrounding shared custody during the holidays, start by reading your custody order, suggests. “Many arguments are started because either one parent or both parents did not read their custody order,” according to “A well-prepared custody order by an experienced family law attorney will spell out who has custody on the specific holiday and when custody exchanges should occur.”

Additionally, encourages parents to communicate with each other about any travel plans they have during the holidays, particularly if a trip overlaps with the other parent’s custody time. “Parents who leave each other in the dark unnecessarily cause huge ordeals when someone is running late or a flight is delayed,” says

Additionally, be realistic with holiday itineraries and consider input from the children, FindLaw suggests. “[I]dentifying the possible issues, before they arise, can make them easier to avoid and deal with. Make sure both parents are clear on travel time, parenting time . . . (and amount of) gifts, says FindLaw.

It is also important that parents are cooperative with one another. “While your ex may try your patience and test your flexibility, one day you may need a favor and want to vary the parenting schedule,” suggests. Additionally, if one parent objects to the other’s plan, say something. “Don’t acquiesce during the planning stage and then withhold the children when the holiday finally arrives,” says.

Finally, remember that the holidays are not all about you, Psychology Today author Robert Emery, Ph.D., suggests. “Your children deserve their celebrations even if you feel cheated out of yours. Encourage them to have a blast with their other parent, even if you can’t stand the prospect of being alone,” Emery says.

Negotiating joint custody agreements, including plans for the holidays, in advance may be stressful, but having agreed-upon schedules in place ahead of time may help alleviate conflict when the most important thing is spending time with your children. Parents in need of custody agreements should consult with a Family & Matrimonial Law attorney.


As a Partner at Tully Rinckey PLLC, Michael J. Belsky vigorously represents spouses, parents and grandparents in virtually every aspect of family and matrimonial law

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