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A Better Partnership


Nov 2012
November 19, 2012

Over the river? Making parenting time work over the holidays

The holidays are fast approaching and for divorcing and divorced parents throughout Michigan, that can mean hassle and heartache when it comes to figuring out scheduling holiday meals and family get-togethers. Ric Roane, a partner at Warner Norcross & Judd LLP and chair of the firm's Family Law Practice, sees an annual uptick in his practice from now through New Year's as parents try and work through the sticky issue of holiday scheduling.

“In many ways, our job is to make sure that the kids are in the right home at the right time,” said Roane, who also chairs the Michigan Chapter of the American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers.  “That's seldom so important -- or so challenging -- as it can be during the holidays.  As parents divorce and remarry, they may be trying to accommodate the needs of blended families, new religious traditions and multiple cultures.  Communication and negotiation are keys to the process, along with compromise and patience.”

Roane notes that parents who are in the process of divorcing -- or who have final parenting schedules in place  -- may have the most challenges over dividing the holidays.  He recommends:
  • Past, new traditions:  Roane says it can be most helpful to start with a review of what each respective family has done in the past before the divorce.  If you typically spent Christmas Eve with mom's side of the family and Christmas Day with dad's side of the family, see if you can continue to do that.  “Try to honor past traditions as much as possible, but recognize that you may not be able to keep them intact,” Roane counsels.  “It may be time for divorced or divorcing parents to create new traditions for their families.”
  • Alternate holidays:  A simple solution may be to alternate holidays so that a child spends Thanksgiving one year with mom's family and the next year with dad's.  Of course, Roane says, if mom gets Thanksgiving this year, it may be worthwhile to let dad's family choose first when it comes to Christmas.
  • Barter:  Parents may need to do some need to do some “horsetrading” to ensure that they secure appropriate parenting time at a time when it's most important to their respective families, Roane notes.  For example, if you have a cottage and spending the Fourth of July is important to your family, offer your spouse Memorial Day AND Labor Day to ensure that your children are with you for fireworks on the Fourth.

Be creative, flexible:  There's no “one size fits all” when it comes to holiday negotiations, Roane says.  It's important for spouses to be creative and flexible and try to put their children's needs ahead of their own.

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