Home > divorce, family law general, paternity/child custody > And so it Begins….(or, Holidays and Divorce don’t have to suck)

And so it Begins….(or, Holidays and Divorce don’t have to suck)

I’ve done a few posts now about Christmas/the whole Winter Holiday Season.  It’s a rough time of year for many; I have personally not looked forward to a Christmas probably in 20+ years.  Being an adult and having kids around the holidays is hard enough when you’re married and broke.  Throw being divorced into that mix, and you’ve got the perfect storm of Bah Humbug.

I am pleased to say, however, that this year gives me hope that Christmases will get better.  At this point, my ex and I have a really good working relationship as it relates to the kids and scheduling family holiday activities for both of our families.  Of course, I will have been divorced 11 years in March…Time does heal a lot of wounds.  I also live very close to the ex, and my kids are older and have more of their own lives.  Those things make everything substantially easier.


Calmer holidays…a great gift to give and receive.

All that said, I STILL deal with holiday issues for those who have been divorced more recently, and how they will handle sharing the time with the kids between themselves.  And the State of Some of these Dis-Unions is still warlike.  So let’s talk about some basic rules of thumb for Dealing with the Ex at the Holidays.

  1.  BE AN ADULT AND DON’T SCREW OVER YOUR KIDS OUT OF SPITE FOR THE EX.  Seriously.  Get over yourself.  Don’t be a jerk.  Grow the hell up.
  2. Where you can be flexible, be flexible!  I know this isn’t possible if you live more than, say, 20 miles from the ex, but if you ARE in close proximity to each other, don’t be a jerk about family parties, etc.  In fact, you could even PLAN things out together, so that the kids can do as much with both families as is mortally possible.  Now I’m not saying that you should give up all of your parent time, ESPECIALLY if you’re the non-custodial parent. And requests to take part of your parent time should be reasonable.  The custodial parent should not go and get the kids all scheduled for family parties, tell the kids, and then tell the other parent that they’ll just have to tell their children that They Can’t See Grandma And Their Cousins This Year (SEE RULE #1).  All I’m saying is to attempt to work together.  (See my article on calendaring the kids activities online here.)
  3. This one is similar to the 1st–If you live some distance apart, or can’t compromise on any sort of alternate kids’ visit schedule,  FOLLOW THE COURT ORDER.

    This is NOT a good look on anyone.

    You have a divorce decree/custody order for a reason.  More than likely you and the ex came to this arrangement by stipulation (you compromised and agreed on it).  Stop pouting; stop trying to pull a fast one on the ex; stop acting like a 13 year old girl (and I mean that to BOTH parents–Because I’ve known a lot of men who act like 13 year old girls).  Put on your big girl panties and do what you said you’d do when your order was put in place. (Because I KNOW the court had you tell the judge you understood and agreed to be bound by the order.  That means you’d follow it.)

  4. If the ex is totally unreasonable, acts like a pouting 13 year old girl, and pulls a fast one on you, DON’T CALL THE POLICE.  They can’t enforce your civil divorce decree–they can only do a civil standby for exchanging the kids.  Do you really want to traumatize your kids on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day by having a cop show up at the ex’s door and demand he/she turn over the kids?  Do you really think that’s going to help your children have a decent Christmas?  Of course it won’t–you know that.  Unfortunately, we can’t always work with reasonable, decent exes who act like adults.  Do your best to communicate with the ex (without name-calling!) preferably via text, email, or recorded phone conversation regarding getting the kids per the order.  Document what happened and contact your lawyer after the holidays.  Your remedy at law under the decree is take the ex back to court to try and enforce the order/make up for lost time/find the other parent in contempt/just have the court smack the other parent around a little.  That’s really all you can do.  I know it sucks.  I’m sorry 😦
  5. Understand that you will likely not have your kids every year for Christmas.  I have blogged on this ad nauseum…go read those other articles about holidays.  I know it’s not really Christmas without your kids, but it goes both ways.

    2008–A year I did NOT have my kids for the Actual Christmas Day holiday.  2nd Christmas?  Pretty awesome :).


    Even if you don’t think the other parent “deserves” to have the kids for whatever reason, more likely than not your kids love BOTH their parents, and enjoy time spent with BOTH of them.  There is give and take in parent time with your children when you are divorced.  Some years you’ll have them; and some you may not.  Get used to it.  It’s not the end of the world.

  6. GROW UP AND ACT LIKE AN ADULT. I know, this was the first one.  It’s the last one, too, because this is really the most important part about dealing with an ex regarding holiday parent time.  Your kids did not choose to get divorced; that was an adult decision.  Don’t make your kids miserable every Christmas because you just can’t grow up and act like one.

Some things to note:  Sometimes it is totally appropriate to call the police for parent time exchanges.  If it’s your time with the kids, and you’ve had no response to your communication with the other parent whatsoever, it really wouldn’t hurt to show up at the ex’s house at the scheduled time with a cop.  Keep it low key.  Don’t come in sirens blazing, guns drawn.  If the ex is home, it *might* encourage her/him to follow the order.  If the ex isn’t there with the kids, or still refuses to give them to you, the officer will make a report that you can use to document the fact that the ex violated the order.

Also:  Your order may give the kids to the other parent EVERY Christmas.  This happens a lot when one parent moves the kids far enough away that parent time is not feasible on a more frequent basis for the non-custodial parent.  You really need to just get over it.  You have the kids every other day of the entire year, beyond your ex’s few bits of visitation.  Do your Christmas before or after the actual holiday.  Guess what??  Your kids will LOVE having 2 Christmases.  My kids have been doing this for going on 11 years now, and they have no complaints about getting their Christmas presents over the course of a couple weeks leading up to or after the actual holiday ;).

So there ya go.  Follow the rules and your holiday season will be much more pleasant and peaceful.  Because it really all boils down to this:  We all love our kids.  This whole holiday parent time thing is really about them anyway, right?  So do them and yourself a favor–Peace on Earth, ya’ll, right in your little part of the world.

And Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and all that jazz.


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