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Negotiating changes to your holiday parenting visitation schedule

For divorced parents this time of year, one issue that's likely forefront in your mind is seeing the kids over the holidays. Regardless of your relationship with your ex, figuring out the holiday visitation schedule is not only challenging, it may be one of the biggest conflicts you encounter when it comes to joint custody.

Part of the problem lies in the fact that plans change and life is full of surprises. You may have been satisfied with the initial parenting plan but then suddenly a holiday party gets rescheduled or a special event pops up. With Thanksgiving just around the corner and December festivities not far behind, what are some methods you and your ex can consider to ensure the holidays are merry and bright for you and your children this year?

Tips for a holiday visitation schedule that works for everyone

Before anything else, you'll want to determine what the established parenting plan dictates and work from there. Once you realize that an already agreed-upon arrangement may not work as you'd initially hoped, or if there's a special event or certain day you really would like to spend with the kids, consider the following advice:

  • Remember it's within your ex's rights to say no.
  • Figure out exactly what you want and then convey that clearly.
  • Allow your ex to similarly communicate his or her goals.
  • Consider recent adjustments you've made to the schedule and offer a compromise.

It's also advisable that you and your ex avoid involving the children in the visitation schedule planning. You wouldn't want to get your children's hopes up about a special event only to disappoint them when you and your ex can't reach an agreement. Additionally, forcing children to choose between their parents puts too much pressure on them and may ruin their holidays.

Remember it's within your ex's rights to say no

One thing you'll want to keep in mind is that you're making a request, not a demand. Being prepared to accept a negative answer may help you to approach the situation with a mindset of negotiation instead of antagonism, which can make a big difference.

Figure out exactly what you want and then convey that clearly

Before you can unambiguously ask for what you want, you need to be sure of it yourself. Determine your holiday priorities ahead of time so that you can then be honest and upfront about those goals and which are most important to you. If you can avoid being overly vague or hiding the real reasons you would like a schedule adjustment, this can go a long way towards setting a positive pattern for future negotiations.

Allow your ex to similarly communicate his or her goals

Ask your ex whether he or she has any similar goals or hopes for the holidays. An important part of any negotiation is calmly demonstrating that you respect the other party's needs or wishes.

Consider recent adjustments you've made to the schedule and offer a compromise

When discussing the matter, factor in who has made accommodations to change the schedule recently and why. If you have made a lot of frequent requests in the recent past, understand that your ex may be less willing to agree to yet another adjustment. It may help if you offer a compromise, such as giving your ex one of your scheduled days with kids in exchange for accommodating your request.

An ideal parenting plan

Being willing to compromise and cooperate can go a long way towards getting the holiday visitation schedule you'd like. In the end, though, if your ex won't agree, you'll have to abide by the court-approved schedule, which is why it's crucial to establish the best possible parenting plan before your divorce is finalized. No schedule will be perfect all the time, but for divorcing parents in West Virginia, there are experienced family law professionals who can offer guidance and support when it comes to determining an ideal child custody arrangement.

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Joseph Brophy Cordell, Attorney at Law
115 1/2 West King Street
Martinsburg, WV 25401

Phone: 304-707-0673
Fax: 304-263-3378
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