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As the holidays are quickly approaching, this is a good time to think about parenting time. Whether this is your first holiday season dividing parenting time or you are a pro, you can enhance the chances of fond holiday memories by making sure you and your family have a good plan in place. 
 
Remember that holiday parenting time, like all other parenting plan aspects, should be based on what is in your children’s best interests.  Parent’s wishes are typically considered, but the plan should not be based on what the parents are going to miss.  Kid’s typically take their ques from their parents and if you can keep a positive attitude and be creative and flexible, your kids will typically follow suit. 
 
Begin with referencing any existing Court Orders.  If you have a temporary or permanent parenting plan, now is the time to review the wording for the division of time, pick up or drop off guidelines, and any other particulars. If you have questions regarding the plan be sure to check with your attorney for clarification.  If one parent is travelling, exchange itinerary details so the kids can be prepared.  And make sure that all communication goes through the parents, not the children, when discussing parenting time issues.  It is also a good idea to get any agreed upon changes or revisions to your plan in writing.  Check with your attorney, but typically parents can agree to small modifications on their own.  Keep in mind that agreements not filed with the Court are not Court Orders.  
 
If you don’t have an existing holiday parenting plan, talk to your attorney about getting an agreement in place.  Typically, counseling or parenting professionals and Judges like to take time off at the holidays too and their availability can get tighter during the holiday season. Parenting plans can be prepared to fit your children and family and our experienced attorneys can assist you with details that are well-suited to your situation.  Do you want to divide the holiday break, divide the actual holidays and leave the standard plan in place, or have one parent exercise the entire holiday on a rotating basis? Are you in a place where you can all be together for some of the holiday? Part of your plan can also be additional communication with the children during holiday times.  Is it important that the children be able to have brief Facetime, Skype, or Google hangout contact with the parent not exercising the actual day?  Or is your child used to a call with grandparents or other siblings they aren’t with during the holiday?  Again, the plan should be based on what the kid’s needs are and supporting relationships. Your attorney can help you draft a plan that works for you.
 
The holidays can be stressful and depressing for some, and missing time with your child can be an additional stressor.  Being flexible and working outside of the box can help combat some of the stress.  Build new holiday traditions with your children like seeing holiday lights, holiday baking, or volunteering in the community, that don’t have to be tied to a specific day.  Building new memories can help make the holidays happier and more fulfilling, even when it’s not your year to exercise the actual holiday. 
 
This is also a great time to let your children know that you value their relationship with both parents.  Be careful not to make it a competition between the activities at each house.  Help your child get a gift or make something for the other parent.  And accept a gift that the other parent helped your child with graciously.  Your planning, flexibility, and attitude can make all the difference for you and your kids to enjoy the holiday season. 
 
This article was NOT written by an attorney and is NOT intended as legal advice. 

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