Surviving the Impact of Holiday Season as a Divorced Parent

If you’re a divorced parent, facing the holidays can be less than cheerful. While others seamlessly plan get-togethers, you are left with a set of logistical and practical problems that can seem like scaling a mountain. 

If you have made it through the holidays, it could have been a case of surviving conflict with your ex, in-laws, kids, and new partners. Holiday survival as a parent who is getting divorced in Massachusetts takes planning. Even if it goes well, the experience can create yet more decisions for divorced parents.

Some of the problems and questions divorced parents face during the holidays include:

  • Who spends the holidays with the kids? For parents who have been divorced for a while, this question may have a highly structured answer: parents alternate holidays with kids, or if they live close by, they could arrange to spend half the day with each parent. For parents getting a divorce it could be something they need to negotiate. To avoid overstepping boundaries and causing conflict which can affect custody negotiations you should speak to your attorney about temporary arrangements, including any temporary schedules that have been mandated by the court. Depending on your divorce and how amicable it is, the decision may require more formality, or it can be worked out on an informal basis.
  • So, you got through the holidays and it didn’t work out, can you adjust your arrangements? You can adjust your visitation arrangements with your co-parent, but bear in mind it could plunge you back into negotiations with your ex. If you have moved further away from your co-parent you might want to alternate holidays instead of sharing them.
  • Am I a bad parent if I can’t get through the holidays with my ex or in-laws? Some divorces are easier than others, and people separate with no hard feelings. Some even stay good friends. Other divorces may be “high conflict” or fraught with emotion. If you haven’t lived up to the “conscious uncoupling” ideal, there is no shame, and it could be emotionally important to maintain distance from your ex or in-laws. In more extreme cases it could be prudent not to communicate with your ex in any way that could derail your divorce negotiations. 
  • What is appropriate for children, and can my conduct at the holidays affect my divorce case? When you are getting a Massachusetts divorce, it’s important to ensure that you protect your children from any emotional harm that could be caused by the upheaval. While you can’t be responsible for everything your children are feeling, it may not be appropriate to introduce children to new partners at the holidays, especially if your ex is not on board. In a Massachusetts divorce, courts look at the “best interests of the child” standard. Behaving responsibly and discreetly about your personal life is the best way to ensure you are viewed as a responsible parent by the court. Even if you are settling your divorce out of court, shielding your children from damaging upheaval protects their wellbeing. While nobody is a saint, caution and discretion is advised when you are in the early stages of getting a divorce.
  • Who pays for the holidays and travel? During divorce parents will arrange custody and visitation schedules. Even if you have joint custody there will still be child support based on the difference in incomes and the time spent with the kids. While one parent is spending time with the children it’s assumed they have expenses that will need support. The parent who spends more time with the child will typically receive more support. The courts use calculations based on income and time spent with the child. Negotiating child support is one part of the divorce that can’t be done by parents independently and requires the approval of the Massachusetts probate and family law court. If your income has changed child support may be renegotiated but you need to consult your attorney about pursuing this avenue.

Negotiating the holidays as a divorced parent is something that takes planning, but if all has not gone according to plan, don’t despair! When you are getting a divorce, learning what works and what doesn’t work is part of moving towards a better future.