Navigating the Holidays When Co-Parenting After Divorce

Last updated on: May 22, 2023

As a Matagorda County divorce attorney, I hear about it all the time. The holidays can be a difficult time for children whose parents are divorced or separated. No matter how co-parents schedule their time with their child—for example, splitting time on Christmas or one parent taking Christmas Eve and the other Christmas Day—the holidays can be a confusing time.

Want to make it easier on your child this holiday season? These tips might help.

Do Not Make Them Feel Like They Are to Blame

If you do not get to spend time with your child on a holiday like Christmas, it’s perfectly fine to feel sad. But you should think of your child’s feelings before sharing that information with them. Telling them that you are sad that you won’t get to see them on the holiday won’t change the situation for the better. In fact, it could make your kid feel as though they are to blame for your sadness.

Instead, focus on the positives. Tell them you are excited to spend time with them on an upcoming day. Ask them if they are excited about their presents. Tell them to have a great holiday. The things you say could affect how they view the holiday for years to come.

Allow Them to Talk about Their Other Parent Freely

If your kid wants to talk about your ex-spouse, it’s critical that you try to make them feel like you want to hear what they have to say, even if you really don’t. Avoid facial expressions and comments that make your child feel bad about sharing what they do with their other parent. Regardless of your divorce, you and your ex-spouse are both a huge part of your child’s life.

Alternatively, do not use your child as a way to get more information about your ex-spouse by asking them questions about their time together. Only if your child wants to be forthcoming about their time with their other parent should you ask them.

No Negative Talk about the Other Parent

You should make this a habit for the rest of the year, too. Negative talk about the other parent, no matter how discreet you think you are being, can have an adverse effect on your relationship with your child. Before you and the rest of the family get together, be sure to have a talk with them about not being negative toward your ex-spouse.

Reduce Their Stress When Dropping Them at Their Other Parent’s House

The holidays can be a stressful time, but it is imperative that you take measures to reduce your child’s stress when you take them to their other parent’s house. For example, if something about the exchange changes, let your child know ahead of time. If you have to change the time or place or your ex-spouse needs to change things, communicate to your child that you and their other parent have agreed that a different time or place is best for everyone.

It’s important to keep your child’s point of view in mind when making decisions. By taking on their perspective, you can avoid creating new stresses in their life.

Co-Parenting Tips During the Holidays Details
Do Not Make Your Children Feel That They Are to Blame
  • Avoid sharing your sadness about not seeing them on the holiday. Instead, focus on the positives and express excitement about upcoming time together.
Allow Them to Talk about Their Other Parent Freely
  • Encourage your child to talk about their other parent without judgment or negative facial expressions. Create a safe space for them to share their experiences.
No Negative Talk about the Other Parent
  • Refrain from speaking negatively about your ex-spouse, as it can adversely affect your relationship with your child. Maintain a positive environment for their well-being.
Reduce Their Stress When Dropping Them at Their Other Parent’s House
  • Communicate any changes in the exchange process in advance to minimize stress. Put your child’s needs first and prioritize open communication with your ex-spouse.

What can I do if my visitation is denied by another parent?

Although family and friends may urge you to call the police, law enforcement will often insist that visitation denials be treated as a civil matter. Police officers are more likely to stay away from a situation where a dispute escalates to a criminal case.

Police officers can read court orders depending on their department and attempt to help the parties. However, the policy is a civil matter so the police cannot enforce it.

A parent can choose from two options to resolve the issue:

  1. A qualified family lawyer can assist a parent in filing a Petition for Habeas Corpus. The other parent must appear with the child if the writ of Habeas Corpus is granted. The parent can also request a Writ to Attachment, which directs the child’s delivery/return.
  1. A parent may file a Motion for Enforcement if the child is withheld by the parent on more than one occasion.

What is considered a denial of visitation?

Children thrive when parents can collaborate in a flexible, cooperative manner to create a schedule. Parents should work together to meet each child’s needs. Parents may not know how to enforce visitation rights if this happens.

You will need to present a pattern of denials in order to have your visitation orders enforced.

Divorce attorney in Matagorda County

Should Co-Parents Spend Time Together?

Is it advisable for co-parents to spend time together? This question carries both advantages and disadvantages that need to be carefully considered for the well-being of the children involved. One significant benefit is that children generally fare better when their parents maintain a harmonious relationship. Research indicates that children who have substantial time with each parent develop stronger bonds with both parents and exhibit improved psychological, social, and academic performance. Additionally, spending time together allows divorced parents to cultivate a civil and friendly relationship, which facilitates cooperation on important matters such as planning and decision-making.

Nevertheless, spending time together post-divorce also has its drawbacks. It can send mixed signals to the children, leading to confusion and emotional distress. Children may struggle to understand their parents’ decision to divorce and become even more perplexed when they witness both parents consistently spending time together. They might question their own worth or believe that they are somehow to blame for their parents’ separation. Moreover, children may hold onto the hope that their parents will reconcile, only to have those hopes dashed. This can be especially challenging for young children who may not fully comprehend the reasons behind the divorce.

Lastly, spending time together can complicate the parenting plan. Divorce involves meticulous planning, and the arrangements made during this process help navigate life after the divorce. When divorced parents spend time together, it can disrupt plans such as custody arrangements and parenting schedules. The boundaries between individual relationships may become blurred, leading to further confusion and potential instability.

Types of Child Custody in Texas

Texas courts have two categories for child custody matters: conservatorship and possession and access.

Conservatorship refers to the rights and duties of both parents. Conservatorship includes being able to make decisions regarding the child’s education, health, and other important aspects of the child’s life. A conservatorship can be done in different ways. If one parent makes all decisions, this is referred to as sole managing conservatorship. If both parents can jointly make decisions for the child, it is referred to as joint managing conservatorship. 

Possession and access refer to the time when the parents have physical custody of the children or when they can visit the children. In Texas, there are two statutory possession and access schedules. These are called standard and extended standards. This schedule lays out the details and time each parent spends with their children. 

The parties can also either agree to different schedules depending on their needs, or the court may order a different access and possession schedule based on the best interests of the child. It is important to always consult with an experienced family law attorney to learn more about your rights when it comes to child custody.

Talk to an Experienced Matagorda County Attorney

If you need to speak with an attorney who practices family law, don’t hesitate to contact me. I am here to help.

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