If you look at a calendar, it's only early October, but if you look in a lot of stores, they are running out of Halloween decorations and have had some Christmas stuff out for quite a while. Stores seem to run on a faster calendar than most of us use.
Nevertheless, this is really a good time to look ahead to the holidays coming up in November and December. While we only recently had our last 100 degree day here in North Texas, it won't be long before the weather cools and family holiday disputes heat up. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to minimize holiday stress in divorced or divorcing families. Here are my suggestions:
1. Start by looking at the court order or agreement. While there are some standardized possession schedules we use in Texas, they are often customized, particularly in temporary orders and in Collaborative Law agreements. Often, the schedules change every other year, so you should begin by confirming which schedule applies this year.
2. Give any notices now that are required. Sure, it's early, but it will help you and other family members to start working on scheduling. There's no harm in giving proper notices 30 or 60 days ahead. It will allow adjustments or corrections, if they are needed.
3. Start making travel plans. We all know that buying tickets early usually gets the best prices. Actually, it might have been better to get your November-December tickets back in August or September. Don't wait any longer for the best deals!
4. Start negotiating early if you need to change the schedule or any details. That allows time for the other side to think about your request and time to make changes before their plans are set in stone. Plus, sometimes it takes a while to negotiate, and this gives you the time you may need.
5. Be willing to adjust your plans around the schedule and needs of the kids and the other parent. Being able to compromise will normally result in a bigger pay-back later. Being unwilling to compromise may result in a big pay-back later of a different kind.
6. Meet with your lawyer early for answers and preparation, if necessary. I can assure you that your lawyer will appreciate an early start before the courts get clogged up with last-minute custody and visitation fights. Going to court early, before the holiday season, will give you a better chance of being heard by a judge who has time to listen to you. Sometimes the courts shut down near the holidays and sometimes they get overwhelmed by hearings. If you have something important to be decided, you want the judge to have the time to give you a good hearing.
7. Whatever schedule you end up following, be sure the kids know about it well in advance. It can be fun just telling the kids about what they will be doing. You can set the tone with positive expectations for the kids by being encouraging no matter whether the kids are with you or the other parent. On the other hand, if the kids are facing doing something that is not their favorite, you can help them get over it so it doesn't ruin the holiday. Be careful how and what you tell the children. Take the high road and help them see the positive side.
Take a little time now to review your situation and make plans for the holidays. That will allow you to have a much more enjoyable and less stressful holiday season!