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How the holidays can complicate shared custody plans

On Behalf of | Sep 27, 2023 | Child Custody

The holiday season can put a lot of stress on the average parent. They may have to plan ahead months to properly budget for gifts and may need to coordinate celebrations with loved ones in other cities or states. Every parent can find the holidays to be somewhat stressful and challenging, but those in certain family situations may have a much harder time than others.

Those who have divorced or separated from the other parent of their children in Iowa often find that the holiday season, especially the first holiday season after the family unit changes, can be profoundly destabilizing for co-parenting arrangements, for example. What makes the holidays so hard for co-parents to handle?

Disagreements about the schedule

One of the biggest challenges of negotiating a co-parenting arrangement will be deciding how the adults in the family time with the children. Both parents will probably want to see the children as much as possible, and holidays will be a time when people desperately want to be with their children. Adults may find it very difficult to agree to terms that will keep them from spending certain holidays with their children. They may need to talk at length about whether they need to alternate holidays or split them. In some cases, parents may even be able to commit to having joint celebrations because the children would enjoy that more.

Concerns about travel

Particularly in high-conflict scenarios where someone has family in another state, holiday plans that might include a visit to grandparents could seem like a real concern. The parents in the family may need to talk about holiday traditions and travel and agree to certain rules. For example, they may need to seek pre-approval for out-of-state travel or a limit on how long one parent can keep the children in another state.

Financial challenges

From the cost of buying airplane tickets for all of the kids for a Thanksgiving trip to visit grandparents living in Florida to the expense of purchasing the technological wish list of a teenager for Christmas, there are many holiday-related expenses that will go well beyond the standard family budget. Child support payments do not factor in the expense of Christmas gifts and holiday travel.

Adults may need to coordinate their gifts ahead of time by discussing them and may even need to cooperate by combining resources to purchase expensive gifts together. Those who already have a plan in place will usually find it easier to manage large gifts and other holiday expenses than those who have to address these issues as they arise.

Creating a parenting plan that carefully considers the challenges adults face when sharing parental responsibilities around the holidays may help the whole family handle changing household circumstances more gracefully.