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Holidays, Parenting Time, and Mrs. Doubtfire

By Sarah Jacobs, Esq.

Morris County Co-parents Plan for the Holidays

You don’t have to “pull a Mrs. Doubtfire” to spend time with your kids this year

Parenting Time and Holidays from Mrs. Doubtfire

It is hard to miss at least one showing of the seemingly never-ending loop of the movie Mrs. Doubtfire, one of Robin Williams’ comedic masterpieces, playing on the television during the holiday season.  Anyone who has seen the movie once, twice, or more times than they would like to admit have probably shed a tear or two; some from the total hilarity of the scenes, the story line and the stellar cast led by Robin Williams and Sally Field, but also from some of the difficult and emotional scenes where a father yearns for more time with his children and any opportunity he can get to share his love with them. Like many divorced parents who co-parent, Mrs. Doubtfire is a portrayal of love as the father resorts to converting himself into a middle-aged nanny in order to spend time with the children he adores so much.

This sentiment hits home even more during the hectic and often difficult time for co-parents during the holidays. You and your ex are faced with the overwhelming task of dividing time on these special days and working together to make sure the children have peaceful and positive experiences filled with love and laughter.

Holidays can be stressful for everyone, but for children of divorced or separated parents, the holidays can be especially challenging. Despite this reality, divorced parents (as well as parents who are separated and considering divorce) can ease the tension, maintain their sanity and grace and create happy holiday memories for their children and themselves for years to come. In most cases, a positive outcome coming from what may be viewed as a negative situation, hinges on the level of conflict between you and your ex or soon-to-be ex partner. If custodial conflict leaves holiday plans unresolved then the courts, not the parents, often have the final say on holiday schedules. However, there are many ways divorced or separated parents can handle custody issues during the holidays . . . and they do not require a parent to dress as an older housekeeper.

Alternate Holidays Annually say Morris Divorce Attorneys

Many parents follow the seemingly most common arrangement, where they alternate between holidays each year. In this scenario, one parent may have certain holidays in even numbered years and the other parent will have the same holidays in odd numbered years. For example, the kid(s) may have Thanksgiving at dad’s and Christmas or Hanukkah at mom’s one year, and the next year they switch.

Some parents, however, may find it difficult and disappointing not to be with their child(ren) at all during a holiday. If this is the agreed-upon plan, many will try to be prepared with things to do by making alternate plans for themselves with extended families or loved ones, they may plan a trip away, or schedule events to keep themselves busy while they are away from their children during these special occasions.

Split Hours Equally Each Holiday in Madison NJ

Another common method which parents follow is to split the holiday day between each parent. This method allows both parents to have time with their children on each holiday annually, and can avoid the difficult task of parents missing the kids on the special day. However, depending on the child or children, this may be stressful for them, as it may lead to a hectic schedule on what should be a care-free and joy-filled time. This also requires parents to generally be in close proximity to one another and it is imperative to stay on schedule to avoid any unnecessary conflict. If increasing the number and frequency of transitions for the kids as well as increasing the parents’ interactions could lead to disagreements or added stress to an already chaotic holiday season, you may want to think twice before splitting the days. If there is ongoing conflict or even a likelihood for conflict, equally splitting holidays may not be the best option.

Create Two Days for Each of Your Mendham NJ Holidays

Whoever said Thanksgiving had to be on a Thursday? An alternative to equally splitting the holidays on an annual basis is for one parent to host or arrange to celebrate that holiday in the days before or after the actual calendar day. For example, if dad’s extended family lives out of town, Thanksgiving could be spent with mom, and dad could celebrate a Thanksgiving holiday meal the weekend following Thanksgiving. Maybe mom always goes away for a few days before or after Christmas, so dad can have Christmas day and mom and the kids can enjoy a stress-free family vacation in the days prior to or after December 25th. The key to successful holiday scheduling for divorced and separated parents is to maintain a consistent level of flexibility and cooperation while always considering the least disruptive schedule for their children.

Florham Park Divorced Parents Can Still Spend Holidays Together

As unconventional as it may sound, some families are able to spend the holidays all together with their children. Some even include their extended families where the separated or divorced parents and their former in-law families celebrate together. It may come as a shock that people are able to spend holidays with their divorced families as they did prior to the major life change, but this arrangement is possible in a smaller number of divorced families and almost certainly will deliver happy, healthy holidays in families where the divorced parents are cooperative and high functioning in co-parenting their children.

The Moral of the Story…Plan for the Holidays in Advance

If there was an 11th hour holiday schedule negotiation last year and no ongoing holiday schedule for this year, set up a holiday schedule now. Here are a few tips to communicating effectively with your co-parent:

  • Use email or text to give yourselves time to process and respond appropriately.
  • Communicate clearly about time, location, who will be dropping off and picking up, supplying clothing and anything the children may need for the holiday with the other parent.
  • Stick to the plan! Do not waiver. Straying from the agreed-upon schedule will likely make everyone involved unsettled.
  • Correspond, iron-out, and agree as far in advance as possible..
  • Let your extended family know of your plan so they are prepared for the day and do not add any stress or difficulty when following your itinerary. Everyone will be happier knowing what to expect and avoiding conflict on the eve of the holidays.
  • Carry on with your traditions.

Contact Our Morris County Divorce Attorneys Today

By planning ahead you can focus on what is important, carrying on with the loving traditions your family has always enjoyed. If you and your co-parent are on the same team, these traditions, and the love of family will stay at the center of every holiday. What better gift could a parent give?

The family law attorneys at Jacobs Berger, LLC have extensive experience in guiding divorcing couples across Morris County, in towns such as Morristown, Randolph, Mendham, Morris, Florham Park and the surrounding area. Contact us for a confidential case evaluation at 973-710-4366 and let us help guide you this holiday season.

Contact Our Morristown Attorneys Today

At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys are experienced in protecting our clients across Madison, Randolph, Tewksbury, Morristown, and the greater Morris County area in all family law-related issues.

To schedule a strategic planning session with one of our experienced team members regarding your particular case, please contact us online or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 354-4506.