It can happen to the best of us: We can get a little excited, plan a holiday getaway, and as soon as the reservation’s made and the deposit’s put down, we realize there’s some sort of conflict. Or, perhaps, the family’s made plans for us in the form of a reunion or a wedding or some other special event, and there’s something in the way on the calendar. For a number of divorced parents, that something can be the custody schedule in the divorce decree.
That’s the topic of a recent Psychology Today article that notes that now, with the school year underway and the holidays approaching, parents are beginning to plan for Thanksgiving and Christmas. But if those parents are getting divorced or are newly divorced, the idea of who gets the kids when can be disorienting. In divorce, you go from having your kids around you all the time during the holidays to having them go back and forth, and that’s unusual.
The author got at the topic by advising:
Travel sites recommend that travelers book their holiday plans now, but before you book your flight, be sure to review your custody agreement. If you are still negotiating your custody issues, you should check with your attorney to understand which holidays you will spend with your children for the upcoming school year and/or to work out a holiday and vacation schedule.
If you’re operating with the Texas Family Code’s standing orders, as a lot of people do, Section 153.314 will be crucial to your holiday planning:
- the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child in even-numbered years beginning at 6 p.m. on the day the child is dismissed from school for the Christmas school vacation and ending at noon on December 28, and the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in odd-numbered years;
- the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child in odd-numbered years beginning at noon on December 28 and ending at 6 p.m. on the day before school resumes after that vacation, and the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in even-numbered years;
- the possessory conservator shall have possession of the child in odd-numbered years, beginning at 6 p.m. on the day the child is dismissed from school before Thanksgiving and ending at 6 p.m. on the following Sunday, and the managing conservator shall have possession for the same period in even-numbered years;
So, in 2022, if the father is the possessory conservator, he gets Christmas with the kids but must get them to the mother on Dec. 28 at noon.
The author of the Psychology Today article also added this, which is definitely worth remembering:
Issues of dividing holidays and school vacations can become a significant source of anxiety and pressure, even in a recently established separation or divorce, so, ideally, you will be able to begin conversations and planning now, before the holiday season is fully underway.
If you’re crafting a decree, it can help to include language that clarifies what to do when you need to make a change to your parenting time from what the decree spells out. The decree is there to give parameters when you can’t agree on who should get the kids at a given time. However, you can certainly agree to something that doesn’t follow the decree to the letter that day or that week if it suits you both better — and, more importantly, if it suits the kids better.
Even if you’re in perfect verbal agreement, though, it’s best to get confirmation of the change in writing, and language in your decree to that effect can help you head off conflict later.
You can also create language in your decree that splits up Christmas Eve and Christmas Day if that holiday’s important to both of you. That can tricky, though, if one of you wants to travel — which is part of what the Texas Family Code tries to factor in with the Dec. 28 dividing line.
The author also advises, “Being supportive and allowing for a fulsome relationship with the other parent is critical for your children’s mental health and will likely be important if you are ever before the court for a custody hearing.”
That’s very important to keep in mind. The holidays can be stressful and emotional, especially for parents who are adjusting to the divorce process or life after divorce. While you want to make sure that you and your kids are getting the holiday experience you feel you deserve, both parents need to remain in their kids’ lives, especially while trying to forge new and meaningful holiday traditions.
As with many aspects of divorce when kids are involved, the more focus you can keep on the kids throughout the process, the better.