For many of us this holiday season, it may feel less like Love Actually, and more like A Nightmare Before Christmas. Our lives shifted drastically in the last couple of months as we work from home, educate our children from home and adhere to the various state guidelines to decrease the speed and spread of the Coronavirus.
This year holidays are going to look very different. Your child may get dressed up for Halloween but will likely not trick or treat with their friends around the neighborhood. Thanksgiving may include the feast but not the usual large gathering of friends and family. Now, throw in the fact that you’ve recently separated from your spouse or the other parent, and this holiday season may be anything but merry.
Though the holidays may be rough, there is no reason why things need to get worse. There are things within your control to make the holidays easier. Below are some things to consider during this upcoming holiday season whether you are in the throes of a divorce, separation, or other family law matter, or figuring out a new normal for your family:
1. Don’t wait to create a holiday schedule. It’s never too early to schedule the holidays with the other parent and determine how to share time with your child so that your child can enjoy the holidays with both parents. Now, more than ever, children need stability and predictability.
2. Don’t control the holidays: Once while sitting in a courtroom, I heard a judge inform a father from the bench, during a very contentious divorce hearing, that the “holidays now belong to the children ” as the parties argued about the division of Christmas. This statement, in all its simplicity, really sums up how the holidays should be approached while keeping in mind the best interests of the children and the specific circumstances of each family while allowing for the creation of new traditions.
3. Don’t travel without permission: If you are in the midst of a family law proceeding involving minor children in California, you are automatically bound by the Standard Family Law Restraining Orders prohibiting either parent from removing the child from the state of California without a court order or written consent of the other parent. Best practice is to get permission from the other parent or the court before you spend money on travel plans.
The holidays can be tough, but by acting now, planning and being cognizant of the potential custody issues, you can make things easier for you and your family.