Navigating Holidays in a Family Law Case

For many people, seeing holiday decorations again glitter the stores, holiday music hit the airwaves, and holiday greeting cards hit the inbox is at once a signal of excitement and a harbinger of stress. For individuals going through a family law case, these feelings can be even more pronounced. You may be eager to have some designated time to set aside your worries and enjoy time celebrating with those important to you, and you may also be concerned about what changes or roadblocks lie ahead. This may be your first holiday that you celebrate in the unchartered territory of a family law case—if so, you may be looking for advice on how to navigate through smoothly. Read on:

  1. MAKE SURE HOLIDAY TIME IS CLEARLY DEFINED:  If you have young children that you are co-parenting with an ex-partner, one of the best ways to avoid conflict is to have an easy-to-understand holiday schedule in place in a Court Order. This protects you and your time with your little ones, and it provides some predictability to plan. Holiday schedules can be put in place to protect the specific needs of the family, and as such, there is no one-size-fits all schedule. Perhaps you and your ex-partner observe different holidays and deciding how to schedule them between the two of you comes easy.  Perhaps you observe the very same holidays, and either alternating the holidays or evenly splitting each holiday makes more sense. In any event, it is best to have clear start times, end times, and transportation guidelines laid out in a Court Order—it’s the best way to take the guesswork, and stress, out of how to handle these days, so you can focus on enjoying them.
  2. RE-EVALUATE YOUR TRADITIONS:  Perhaps there are long-held family traditions that you want to maintain for years to come, and the familiarity and warmth of it is both good for you and good for your children. However, this time of transition may also be a good time to try your hand at instilling new traditions. Take stock of what you have always wanted to do. Maybe it is something as simple as hitting the movie theater Christmas Day and ordering takeout for dinner, or maybe it is as elaborate as planning a trip somewhere new each year. Whatever these new traditions may be, they may help signal to you the start of a new phase in your life (and may be incredibly fun).
  3. BE CAREFUL WITH SOCIAL MEDIA:  It’s no secret that social media is a very public place. Be mindful that whatever you post on social media is out there for everyone to see, including the Court. Post with that in mind.
  4. AVOID COMPETING:  It might be easy to wonder what’s happening in a co-parent’s house during a holiday: Does he have better food? Does she have better presents for the kids? Who is having the most fun? Not only are these thoughts harmful to dwell on, but they can put a damper on the time you spend celebrating. Do your best to set these thoughts side and focus on how you can maximize your holiday time and enjoy your family.
  5. BE FLEXIBLE AND DOCUMENT:  Rarely do holidays go exactly as planned, whether you are going through a family law case or not. Traveling on the roads takes longer than expected, small children tire out, and sometimes emotions run high. Do you best to be flexible and understanding with your co-parent when holidays don’t run like clockwork—you will likely reap the benefits when the shoe is on the other foot. If plans need to be altered slightly, be understanding where you can be, and document any last minute agreements that have not yet been placed in a Court Order—a text or email with a change of plans is better than a phone call, as it protects you, and makes that arrangement apparent to the Court should anything go awry.
  6. FOCUS ON GRATITUDE:  Even the most amicable family law cases often come with their share of stress. Acknowledge this to yourself as the holiday season approaches, and make it a point to focus on the great things you are thankful for in each holiday—these are days are gone before you know it, and they have the makings for wonderful memories.

If you would like more information on this topic or other family law issues, please contact the author, family law attorney Colleen Hurley, at 224-836-6172 or