One of the hardest—and most emotional—aspects of separation and divorce is child custody during the holidays. In many cases, it won’t be possible for your children to celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah with both parents. How can you keep the holidays special when only one parent is with them when they unwrap their gifts on Christmas morning or light the Menorah each night of Hanukkah?
We’ll give you the bad news first: it won’t be easy. Now for the good news: it’s not impossible either.
If you and your partner or spouse are in the negotiation stages of ending your relationship, then you can create your own custody and visitation schedule for the holidays. This will be harder than you think, as both of you are going to want the kids with you during the excitement of December 25 and during the evening hours of the Festival of Lights, but you’re going to have to do what a judge would do under the circumstances: overcome the emotional aspects of the decision and focus on what arrangement is in the best interests of the children.
How to share the holidays
If you and the other parent are on amicable terms, then it can be possible to preserve the tradition of spending Christmas morning or the first night of Hanukkah together. If your ex has the kids on Christmas morning, then you can come over before they wake up, watch them unwrap their presents, and even enjoy a holiday dinner together.
If relations between you and your ex aren’t the greatest, then don’t risk ruining the holidays for the children in the name of tradition. When families that celebrate Christmas break up, the usual outcome is for the kids to spend December 24 with one parent and December 25 with the other. This means two sets of unwrapping sessions and sumptuous dinners, which smaller children, in particular, will find exciting. If you try to spend the holidays in the presence of a former spouse or partner you can’t stand, then you can ruin it for everyone, which is highly unfair.
What about travel?
This year, Hanukkah falls on Sunday, December 22 and ends on the 30th, which tallies perfectly with the school break. If you’re still hurting from the divorce, then you may be tempted to take the kids to your parents’ home in Philadelphia to get emotional support.
If the other parent agrees that spending time with Bubbe and Zayde would be good for the children for part (if not all) of Hanukkah celebrations, then you’re all set, but if not, accept the fact that they have the desire and the right to spend a portion of such a significant holiday with the kids. Perhaps your parents could come to you instead.
Whatever holiday arrangement you come up with (or the court orders), be positive in front of the kids and embrace the opportunity to develop new traditions. The ensuing years will be easier, and if you act in the best interests of the children now, the they will be grateful to you forever.
Jayson Lutzky is a Bronx, NY attorney handling family court matters. If you are are dealing with a visitation, child support, child custody or spousal maintenance matter, then call Mr. Lutzky’s office at 718-329-9500. He offers free initial in-person consultations. Visit www.MyNewYorkCityLawyer.com to learn more.