As we are now into the month of November, it is not too early for divorced and divorcing parents to look ahead to the upcoming Christmas Holiday. Here are some “tips” regarding the “nuts and bolts” of handling the Christmas holiday season.
- Read and examine the Parenting Time Schedule for your particular County which should be attached as part of your Final Decree or Court Judgment. The Domestic Relations Court and Juvenile Court of each County have differing schedules. If your parenting time schedule has been lost or misplaced, you can obtain a replacement from your attorney’s office or the clerk where your order was filed.
For example, Montgomery County, Ohio, has the following provision as to the Christmas Break:
In all even-numbered years, the Mother shall have the children from 9:00 a.m. the day after school recesses (or 9:00 a.m. on December 20 if the children are not in school), until 9:00 p.m. December 24, and the Father shall have the children from 9:00 p.m. December 24 through 6:00 p.m. January 1. In odd-numbered years, the reverse shall apply.
And, Greene County, Ohio, has the following provision as to Christmas Break:
In all even-numbered years, the Mother shall have the children from 9:00 a.m. the day after school recesses until 12:00 noon December 26, and the Father shall have the children from 12:00 noon December 26 through 6:00 p.m. the day before school resumes. In all odd-numbered years, the reverse schedule shall apply.
- Plan your Christmas Schedule with family members according to the Parenting Time Schedule that is in place for you. For example, if you are to have the children from December 20 to December 24 (Montgomery County, Ohio), do not invite your parents or extended family members to your home to celebrate Christmas with you and the children on December 25 and expect your former spouse or estranged spouse to agree to your request to have the children on Christmas Day.
- Remember that children truly are resilient! Christmas Eve does not have to be celebrated on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day does not have to be celebrated on December 25 of each year. You and your children are free to celebrate the holiday when you have the children in your care and custody…..it is “okay” to celebrate the holiday early, and it is entirely acceptable to celebrate the holiday “after” the holiday. You merely say to the children and the relatives…..this is Father’s year to have the children for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day so I am inviting you to celebrate the Christmas holiday on December 26 or even December 27.
- If you have extended family members that absolutely can not comply with your Parenting Time Schedule for a given year, reach out to the ex-spouse or the estranged spouse to see if he or she would be willing to trade visitation time so that the children do not miss visitation with grandparents and/or extended family.Example: Due to my parents’ work schedules, they can not arrive in Dayton before December 26. You are scheduled to have the children from December 26th through the first of the year. Would you be willing to have visitation with the children for this year from December 20 through December 25 so that my parents could have time with the children the latter part of the Christmas holiday period.
- Treat your former spouse and/or your estranged spouse with respect and kindness (if at all possible!). You are much more likely to obtain compromise and flexibility in parenting time schedules if you are open and willing to compromise and adapt to change.
- Assume that your children are your first priority and that their happiness and well-being is of paramount importance. This may remove the battle over whether Wife “wins” or whether Husband “wins” in visitation matters.
- If you anticipate there is going to be a “problem” with parenting time this year, there is little time to wait to file a motion with the Court to seek its intervention. Such a motion would need to be filed immediately to try to secure a hearing date before the holiday.
In my opinion, there are really no “winners” in divorce proceedings…..a family unit has been lost! In the best of situations, the parents of the children of divorce will cooperate with one another to achieve a workable parenting time schedule to meet the needs of the minor children of the parties.
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Anne Shale is of counsel to Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues. She is a former registered nurse and concentrates her practice in Family Law and Divorce cases.