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Family Comes First: A Reminder for Divorced Parents in Texas

The Holiday Season is upon us. Purchasing gifts, figuring out plans with family, and decorating the house are just a few of the many, many obligations that each of us will likely engage in during the next few weeks of the year.

While this is a unique and enjoyable time of the year, the obligations themselves can sometimes cloud our vision of the essential part of the season and why we are doing these things in the first place.

If you are the divorced parent of children, you know the stresses and challenges apparent in balancing your holiday plans and expectations with those of your ex-spouse. Even if you get along well with your ex-spouse eleven months out of the year, December brings forth extra roadblocks to civil co-parenting.

Those roadblocks can cause strife and tension between the parents, even from afar. Your children will invariably notice these signs of stress and can have a tremendously negative impact on their ability to enjoy what should be a joyous time of year. In moments of frustration, you may have asked yourself if it is even possible for both you and your ex-spouse to get along and enjoy the moments that you can with your children.

Think positively: You and your Ex-Spouse can be civil during the Holidays

As a family law attorney who has represented clients from all walks of life here in Southeast Texas, I can definitively say that you can ease tensions and help your children to create lifelong memories around this time of year. This is an excellent opportunity for you and your ex-spouse.

It is easy to think only of what you want to see happen during the winter Holidays and to disregard the feelings of not only your ex-spouse but of your children. While you may not actively think along these lines, considering only your plans and wants this time of year essentially tells your children that your goals are superior to those of your ex-spouse. Of any message to send to your children this time of year, I can think of no one worse than that.

Working together to emphasize your children

There is no easy way to say this. Still, your holidays (at least for the near future) may not be exactly what you want them to be in terms of maintaining every holiday tradition you think is essential or seeing your children at every family gathering. With visitation schedules being what they are in most Texas Final Decrees of Divorce, it is unlikely that you will have the flexibility necessary to squeeze in everything that you would like.

The reason for that is you have an ex-spouse who, while no longer your spouse, is still the other parent to your children. They love your children just as much as you do and are afforded an equal right to enjoy the Holiday season with them.

Above all else, it is best not to put your children in a situation where they are in the middle of a conflict over holiday visitation between you and your ex-spouse. No matter how young, children can be acutely aware of the sort of decisions they are essentially being made to make regarding which parent they want to spend time with over the Holidays. If you recall back to your divorce, if you made it into the courtroom, your judge probably told you and your ex-spouse not to do that sort of thing during the divorce. The same rule applies post-divorce as well.

The bottom line is that you and your ex-spouse need to communicate effectively during the Holidays. This does not mean you have to invite them over for coffee. Still, it does tell that however you do share (e-mail, phone calls, text message, or a co parenting website like My Family Wizard), it should be fruitful, positive correspondence intended to help your children enjoy their time with both of you.

This avoids potentially using your children as intermediaries and placing them in the middle of a potential argument. Direct communication can lead to sorting out issues with greater ease and getting back to what matters this time of year: your children.

Think ahead and increase the peace during the Holidays

My grandfather used to say, "If you don't use your head, you have to use your feet." Meaning: if you don't plan for something, you'll have to put forth some effort to make adjustments on the fly. If you know that there is a special event of some sort that you want your children to be present for, but the kids are scheduled to be with your ex-spouse, I would advise you to make your ex-spouse aware of this as early as possible to see if there is a compromise that can be reached.

There isn't always something that can be worked out, but if there is, the chances of a compromise are higher in my experience in October than two days before the dinner or day trip to cut down the family Christmas tree.

If you can work out an agreement to alter or modify your divorce decree visitation for the holidays, make sure that you tie up any loose ends as far as pick-up/drop-off locations. If unique warm weather clothing is needed, make sure that it is provided- whether you are the parent getting the children or the one who is dropping them off. If everything is in writing and you both understand the details, the odds of conflict decrease dramatically.

Remember- during the first Christmas of World War One, even the British and German soldiers could agree to put down their arms to enjoy the Holiday. I'm confident that you and your ex-spouse can help your children do the same with some mutual understanding and planning.

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