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The holidays are coming: Don't panic over the custody schedule

It's already October, and that means that divorced parents everywhere are about to go through than annual ordeal surrounding custody and visitation during the holidays. While your parenting plan may have established some ground rules and a schedule, that doesn't necessarily mean that things will work according to plan -- or that you even want it to work that way.

Divorced parents of young children, in particular, may have difficulty with the holiday visitation schedule. After all, no parent wants to miss out on their child's first Halloween costume. Nor is it pleasant to have to tell the kids' visiting grandparents that they can't see them at Thanksgiving because it's your ex-spouse's holiday on the parenting plan.

The holiday season can get messy when you're divorced and you have kids. Here are some things that can make it easier:

  • Look at your parenting plan. You want to know exactly what custody or visitation you're entitled to have. That not only helps you negotiate from a position of strength but also gives you a good idea about what bargaining chips you may hold.
  • Ask for what you want. Unless your relationship with your ex is particularly hostile, you may find that they're sympathetic -- so long as your request is reasonable. If, for example, you want the kids to see your folks over Thanksgiving, ask if your kids can come over for dessert (even though it's your spouse's day).
  • Offer a compromise that gives as much as you hope to get. If you want to go with the kids during their trick-or-treat session, for example, tell your ex that you're willing to give up some time on "your" next holiday in exchange.
  • Don't forget virtual visitation. It may not be quite as good as being together in person, but it may help take some of the sting out of holiday separations.

Finally, you may need to talk to an attorney about modifying the parenting plan. Some parenting plans have gaps that can turn every holiday into a battle, and that's in nobody's best interests.

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