One of the most difficult aspects of a divorce is the process of learning how to divide your child’s time between yourself and your child’s other parent. I have worked with so many families who have told me that, despite all the challenges presented by divorce, that the most significant change to their lifestyle was learning how to handle in the process the difficulties in coordinating visitation time between two parents who no longer lived together. Couple these challenges with the fact that you and your spouse do not get along well, most likely, and you have a potentially combustible situation.
However, unlike many of the challenges and adversities that we face daily, this is not a challenge that we can set aside to deal with at another time. This issue of sharing parenting time with your ex-spouse confronts you every single day. Not only will you have concerns over dividing up day-to-day life with your kids, but you also have to learn how to handle and work with your Co-parent when it comes to sharing Holidays and vacations with them. If you thought that arguing with your spouse during the divorce was bad enough, these are circumstances that can lead to a lot of problems if left unchecked and unattended too.
Fortunately for you, by reading this blog post and taking intentional control over the circumstances, you can do right for your children and avoid the sort of stress associated with dividing your child’s time between two parents. There is no easy solution or a simple way to address this topic. It requires head-on intervention and the active participation of two people who may not get along that well. While challenges may persist, there is certainly an opportunity here for you to learn something and for your child to benefit as a result.
Defining the role of each parent after divorce
no matter what was decided in custody in the Visitation portions of your divorce, both you and your child’s other parent will play a central role in raising them. Divorce cases cause parents to attach labels to how they raise their children, but ultimately, you both are parents you will look to for support as they grow up. However, for today’s blog post, we need to be able to discuss your role as defined in your final decree of divorce when it comes to Visitation and custody.
In just about every divorce, one parent will be named the child’s primary conservator, who can determine the primary residence of that child. If this is your role, you should know that your child will be spending most of the year with you, especially during the school year. On the other hand, if you are named the parent with visitation rights over your child, then your child will not live with you primarily during the year, but you will have a predetermined amount of Visitation time that you will get to spend with your child during the year.
How that time is divided is ultimately up to you and your Co-parent. A Texas divorce offers parents like yourself ample opportunity to negotiate and work with your opposing party on creating a visitation schedule that is advantageous for your child and yourself. Your circumstances will play a large role in determining what works best for you and your family. However, because you and your Co-parent know your child and your circumstances better than anyone, it is almost always true that you all will be better equipped to set up a Visitation schedule than a family court judge will.
If you are not yet complete with your divorce, I would highly recommend that you work as hard as possible on negotiating a settlement rather than going to trial regarding Visitation topics. Sometimes meeting in the middle on this subject and working with your spouse to create a favorable outcome for everyone involved is the best way to go. From my experience, parties frequently leave divorce trials unsatisfied because they believe that the judge hand down orders that do not fit their family well and are not satisfactory.
You can work with your attorney to develop creative and functional Visitation structures for your family that works throughout the year. Once you get into a mediation typesetting, then that mediator will be able to help you fine-tune your negotiation tactics and help you to see the other party’s side, as well. A trial is always an option in a divorce. Still, typically it can be and is avoided if you and your spouse are like the thousands of others getting divorced at this moment who worked together to create solutions for your family rather than rely on the courts as anything but a last resort to do so.
How are the holidays and vacations divided up in a divorce?
The most significant adjustment that you will likely have to make in connection with spending time with your children after a divorce is coming to understand that your time with your children will be pre-determined months in advance. Many families adhere strictly to the visitation/possession schedule as contained in their final decree of divorce. This means that you should anticipate that your family will do the same. Any ability to play “fast and loose” with the plan would depend on your and your co-parent’s willingness and ability to work together to create a more flexible agreement on the fly.
The vast majority of the year is spent with your children in school. This past year has been odd, to say the least, with the disruption to the school calendar due to the coronavirus pandemic. Even so, the courts in Texas were very clear that you and your family were to follow the pre-set school calendar when determining visitation periods ending/starting. Hopefully, this is a one-year period that will not be repeated as far as a disruption to our lives and collective health. Still, it bears mentioning that you and your co-parent need to be capable of working together to face challenges and disruptions as a team.
You should become familiar with the school’s calendar for your child if you are not already. Once you learn the flow of holidays and school days from August to May, you will be better able to negotiate and plan. If your child is not yet school-aged, you should still be familiar with the schedule because it is likely that your visitation/possession schedules will change as your child ages. Many families include a possession schedule for pre-school-aged children and then a separate possession plan once the children reach school age.
As we talked about a moment ago, you will likely end up as the parent with the right to designate the primary residence of your children or as the parent who will have a visitation schedule created so that you may spend time with your children. Depending on your child’s needs and circumstances, it may require that you take on one role rather than the other. It would help if you were clear and thorough with your attorney when discussing these situations so that they may guide you as best as possible in determining which role is better suited for you and your kids.
Holidays and vacations are not things that sneak up on us, for the most part. Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Spring Break occur simultaneously each year, for the most part. We know the specific periods of the year each of these holidays/vacation periods begins and end. Unless something unforeseen like the coronavirus pandemic occurs, we also know when a school year will start and end at least a year in advance.
The predictability of these vacations and holidays is great because you can plan for when your children will be with you and when they are going to be with your co-parent. It should not happen all that often that you are caught off guard with your child coming to your home or needing to go back to their other parent’s home. This will require some intentionality as far as thinking into the future is concerned, but the more you do it, the more you will become used to working together on this subject with your co-parent.
The Standard Possession Order and its impact on your family’s holidays and vacations
For today’s blog post, I will assume that your family will be utilizing a standard possession order or something close to it for the division of your child’s time between yourself and your ex-spouse. There are many alternatives to an SPO, but since I don’t know your family’s circumstances, we will assume that an SPO is what you all will use, as well.
Holidays and vacations under an SPO are divided up based on the year. Depending on whether or not it is an odd or even year, you will be able to have Thanksgiving, the first or second half of a Christmas holiday, and Spring Break with your child. Note that a parent will not ordinarily have both Christmas and Thanksgiving with their children in the same year. Of course, you and your co-parent are free to negotiate around this, but otherwise, you will have either Christmas or Thanksgiving with your child but not both.
Christmas is split into halves. The first half of the Christmas holiday begins at 6:00 p.m. when school is dismissed for the holiday. The first half of the Christmas period of possession always encompasses the actual Christmas Holiday. The 28th of December is usually the hallway point for the Christmas holiday which means that your child needs to be sent to the other parent at 6:00 p.m. Typically, the non-managing conservator is responsible for the transportation of the children to and from each other’s homes.
Summer Vacation is the longest period that your child is out of school each year. As such, it offers both you and your co-parent an opportunity to spend uninterrupted time with your child. You should pay close attention to the requirements listed in your final decree of divorce to give notice of your intention to spend time with your child during periods in the summer.
For instance, by early April, you will be required to send written notice of your intention to see your child for up to one month during the summertime. If you are the primary conservator, you will be able to choose one weekend during the month-long period of possession for your co-parent to break up the holiday and see your child—the default month of possession for any parent who has visitation rights in July. During the rest of the summer months, you will essentially follow a normal school year calendar with the first, third, and fifth weekends of each month belonging to the parent with visitation rights.
Managing the transition into shared parenting time during holidays and vacations
The hard part about writing about this subject is that I have no clue about you and your family’s dynamic. If you are the sort of person who works hard to be reasonable, fair, and steady in your parenting, then you and your family may have no problem in transitioning your child and your family into this post-divorce period of shared parenting. If your ex-spouse is the same way and is willing to work with you on fostering a good environment for your child as far as being a teammate of yours and looking for opportunities 2 shares in one another successes, then the transition into the post-divorce world will not be a significant one for you and your family.
On the other hand, sharing Holidays in vacations can be an emotional period for certain families. Many of you reading this blog post will have grown up in a household, or your parents were divorced. There was a great deal of stress and anxiety around the Holidays due to the inability of her family to manage these issues well together. It will be a challenge for you to see that these problems of your childhood do not manifest themselves and your family now that you are a parent.
Overall, it would help if you looked to create visitation and possession orders that reflect your family’s needs as much as possible. Deferring to a standard possession order is not necessarily a bad thing, but the more detailed you can be with your plans, the better of the long run your family will do. Keep in mind that your children are ultimately the ones that will stand to benefit or be hurt the most by you and your Co-parent’s inability or unwillingness to work together as a team. For this reason, it is wise to do what you can to put aside your differences as much as possible instead of work with the other person to foster an atmosphere of family and togetherness.
This starts by considering the other person as much as possible. As I mentioned a moment ago, for the summer holiday, you will be responsible for providing notice to the other parent of your intention to take possession of your child over an extended period. It will be wise, fair, in reasonable for you to take some time to consider what you want to do, but you must notify your ex-spouse by the deadline in the court orders of your plans. Do not take an extra day or an extra week to do so. Not only are you violating your court orders, but you are not acting in a considerate manner. You will be surprised at how a good deed will return a good deed on your end on the part of your ex-spouse.
What I will frequently recommend to clients at the end of a divorce is to work with your co-parent to figure out the most effective way to communicate with one another. I find that frequent affective communication in subjects like these can go a long way towards solving problems. If you all have a history of communication problems, then you should work with one another to figure out if email, text messaging, phone calls, or face-to-face conversations tends to work the best as far as delivering information and updates. If you fail to communicate with one another, you are setting yourself up for more problems down the line; there are changes to plans that will need to occur from time to time.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and how your family circumstances will work within the context under the law and your specific case.