Law Office of David L. Scott

Challenges for Divorced Parents During the Holidays

The holidays can be especially stressful for divorced parents, both wanting time with the kids.

For divorced parents, the holidays can have a whole other layer of stress. Who will have the kids for what days and times throughout the holiday season are big questions that need to be decided. Both parents will have to face, at some point, that they will have to spend at least some of the holiday time away from their kids. All of this is difficult enough. Having a plan in place and sticking to it can help minimize the challenges divorced parents face during the holidays.

In Tennessee, visitation is referred to as “parenting time.” Parenting time is laid out in the permanent parenting plan, a plan required in all divorces where children are involved. Parenting plans are supposed to be as specific as possible. General clauses referencing parenting time are usually avoided. Instead of “reasonable visitation,” the plan must lay out the exact terms of the parenting time for each parent. This includes parenting time during holidays. The more specific the parenting plan is, the less chance there will be for second-guessing and arguing later on. The form Permanent Parenting Plan Order used by Tennessee courts is incorporated into the divorce decree. This order lists all of the key holidays and notes what parent will be granted time on each holiday. Usually the parents will alternate years they have the kids on these holidays.

Christmas and winter break is a time of its own. It is listed separately on the Permanent Parenting Order and this is mostly because it is the mostly hotly contested time in parenting time disputes. The order should list who has the children for what exact days and times during the Christmas and winter break holiday. Yes, it is an important time of year for many. Just be sure to do one thing: follow the parenting plan. It is a legally binding document. Going against the parenting plan can land you in contempt of court.

If you and your former spouse agree to make alterations to the holiday schedule for extenuating circumstances, document these changes. Keep any e-mail or written communication exchange between you and your former spouse on this subject. Keep any signed agreement relating to this deviation from the parenting plan.

Following an established plan bring stability and security that your children need. Make sure they are aware of whatever holiday schedule will be in place so that they can manage their expectations accordingly. Additionally, following the schedule will also help you manage your expectations for how the holidays will look like and allow you to plan accordingly.

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