The holidays are a stressful time for everyone. When a family has gone through a recent divorce, everyone feels the effects, especially children. 

The court normally stipulates regular visitation rights as well as holiday time in the final divorce proceedings. If you cannot come to an agreement, the court will decide for you. In New Mexico, courts most often defer in the “best interests of the child” when determining custody, and this includes visitation. Determining child custody arrangements is done through a parenting plan.

Creating Your Parenting Plan

Deciding where and with whom children will spend time, especially during the holidays, can become very contentious. There are a lot of emotions around this, so it’s definitely best to think it through and try your best to come to an agreement. You have the right to draft your own custody agreement. Be advised, this parenting plan will be reviewed and approved by New Mexico family court. 

Its a wise choice to agree ahead of time, if you can, that your priority is to ensure that children feel safe and comfortable. In any event, you’ll have to decide which of the following scenarios you want to pursue in your parenting plan, and be sure you can stick to it.  It can be difficult and time consuming to modify yo

Should I Spend the Holidays with My Ex-Spouse?

This can be a challenging question to answer, and it depends a great deal on the relationship between two spouses during and after a divorce. 

Have an honest conversation. Planning together helps reduce friction and confusion. Plus, in the first years of a divorce, children really do benefit from having both parents in the picture.

If your relationship is amicable, you may consider opening gifts together on the first night of Hanukkah or Christmas morning. 

If you decide to go this route, decide which holiday(s) are the most important for the whole family to spend together and build that into your parenting plan. Be sure you’re OK with doing this for the long haul—even if one or both of you enters into a new relationship. Know your boundaries, and talk about them openly.

How to Split the Holidays after Divorce

If being together is just too painful, you can opt to split up the holidays as part of your parenting plan.

This requires communication and cooperation from both parties. If your kids are old enough, getting their input can be helpful too. Ultimately, you want to come up with a plan that benefits everyone. 

Here are a few ways you might handle it:

Double Celebrations. Some families choose to celebrate big holidays twice—kids can have a full experience at each parents home. Of course, this can get time consuming and expensive. If you dont live near one another, it can be tough to pull off. 

Still, it may be the best solution for you if no one wants to miss out on the full Thanksgiving meal and activities, or a Christmas or Hanukkah celebration. 

Alternate Each Year. Sometimes it’s difficult to come together as a family during the holidays, and alternating gives each parent a fair experience. You might decide to alternate between even and odd years, or choose holidays during the same year—Thanksgiving for one parent, and a winter holiday for the other.

If extended family is involved, you may agree upon travel during the season to see your respective families, or invite them to come to you. Some families will always want to do Easter, and the other family may always want Fourth of July. Find out whats important, and do what you can to honor the values of each side of the family. 

Split the Day. With this approach, both parents can see their children on the same day, which helps maintain some consistency from years past. Splitting the day works best if the children dont have to do a great deal of traveling. 

Choose Specific Holidays. You and your ex-spouse may try and create an even balance throughout the year. One may select Christmas Day while the other has the children on Christmas Eve. This solution requires cooperation and planning so you can prepare your children to reduce their stress and anxiety.

What if my ex violates our agreement? 

Hopefully, you’ll both follow your parenting plan to a T. If not, there are actions that can be taken. Contact an attorney immediately if your agreement is violated so that you can decide whether or not you want to pursue action. 

Parents who ignore the terms of a parenting plan can face court-ordered supervision, contempt charges, and time in court (and possibly in jail). It’s so important to do what you agree to, even if you aren’t enthusiastic about it. A parent is not looked upon favorably if they try and go around the existing plan, because it’s emotionally damaging for kids. 

If you want to modify your parenting plan before the next holiday rolls around, talk to a lawyer and go through the proper channels. 

The First Holiday After a Divorce

After the stress and pain associated with a divorce, the idea of holidays can be overwhelming, and thats not uncommon. There could be feelings or regret, doubt, and even anger over the situation. If you are not be with your children, those feelings can become even more profound. Make sure youre taking care of your own emotional needs during this time. 

If your children are old enough, talk with them and relay your plans. Give them a chance to share how they are feeling about the upcoming events. 

Across the board, set expectations for a new normal during the holidays—with the kids, with your ex-partner, and with family and friends. Everyone needs to support the parenting plan you agree on. 

Divorce during the holidays can be hard, but keeping conflict and stress at bay can make for a healthier, happier experience for all. If you have questions about how to proceed with a parenting plan, or the best approach for your family, contact Sutherland Law firm at 505-539-3232.