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Navigating Co-Parenting Disputes During the Holidays


Your Franklin family law attorney can guide mediation if you can’t reach an agreement

Like many other states, Tennessee prefers to give children regular time with both parents to ensure their healthy development and emotional and mental well-being – assuming that doing so is in the best interests of the children. When you divorce or split up, you will be asked to create a parenting plan, regardless of the custody arrangement that is determined. This parenting plan should include things like how you will handle decisions for the children like schooling and healthcare, what the schedule will be between the parents, and how holidays will be spent.

Despite having a parenting plan order, some parents still end up arguing over how they want to spend the holidays. One parent may be upset at the idea that it’s the other parent’s turn to have the children at Christmas and wants to fight it. Or one person may ask for a special favor to have additional time because the grandparents will be in town. Conversely, one parent might want to keep children away from in-laws they deem to be destructive.

In almost all cases, it is better to try to come to an agreement with your co-parent on your own, rather than get attorneys or the courts involved. I always offer my clients this counsel for navigating co-parenting disputes during the holidays:

Keep the children out of it. Never ever, ever put your children in the middle of your dispute. Don’t talk about your frustration or anger with your children, and don’t talk about it in front of your children. Not only will doing so ruin the holidays for them, but it will also strain the relationship they have with you and the other parent. Always talk directly to the other parent when the children are not present or cannot hear you, and always keep your tone light and your words positive when talking to and about the other parent in front of your children.

Focus on providing a sense of continuity. More important than what you get out of your parenting plan is what your children get out of it. If your children are used to spending time with both parents and their extended family, you should consider working together to create a joint celebration. Over time, you can modify your traditions to slowly ease your children into a new arrangement. But you should still focus on allowing children to see both parents during the holidays, either on the same day or as soon as possible.

Embrace the spirit of the holidays. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah or another winter holiday, the spirit is the same: One of kindness, love and peace. Try to embrace that spirit while you are working with your co-parent to find a compromise. Avoid blaming and calling names, and focus on how you can make everyone happy. Put aside any lingering bitterness or resentment you may be feeling and try to foster a spirit of cooperation and compromise. Everyone will feel better for it, and your children will benefit the most.

Even with your best intentions, you may not be able to reach a compromise. The holidays can be especially contentious, as emotions remain high. If this is the case, I urge you to contact me, Judy A. Oxford Attorney at Law, to discuss mediation and other legal options for modifying your parenting plan or custody arrangement. I am an experienced Franklin family law attorney who has helped many clients just like you. Call my office at (615) 791-8511 to schedule a free consultation or use the secure online form.