There is no “right” way to have holiday visitation. Everyone has a different situation but there are some basic rules that can help you find what works for you. Some things to take into account:
- Your relationship with your ex. How well do you communicate?
- How far away you live.
- What are your schedules like for the holidays, work, and school?
- Does anyone like to travel for the holidays?
Many parents have the children for every other holiday (Thanksgiving with one parent, and Christmas with the other). They also make sure they don’t have the same holiday two years in a row. Some have to account for traveling. For long holidays such as winter break, many parents will divide the time in half, with one parent getting a week with their children and then the other parent receives the second week of the break. The important thing is to do what works best for your situation.
This is all easier said than done. Schedules can get messy fast, and when a holiday pops up in the middle of one parent’s time with the children, things can get confusing. Here are some basic things to know:
You Can’t Prevent Visitation Due to Unpaid Child Support
The court sees these as two completely separate issues. Even if he’s never paid a dime in child support, he still has the legal right to see his children. If you withhold them from him, the courts will not be on your side.
Holidays Supersede Regular Schedule
Your regular visitation schedule may conflict with the holiday schedule. If it is your turn to have your children, but your ex is supposed to have them for that holiday, they need to be with their dad. It isn’t fun, but respecting the schedule means you get to benefit from the reverse situation. Once the holiday is over, the regular schedule goes back into effect; it doesn’t just become the other parent’s turn.
Like Everything Else, This Needs To Be About The Kids
Do what is best for them. There may be more convenient ways to do things, but they come first.
When Dad Doesn’t See Them
Of course, this all assumes that the dad is actively trying to be a part of his children’s lives. The holidays are a time to see family, and not seeing their dad hurts the children. They want to see their parents. If a dad isn’t paying his child support, he may be less likely to take advantage of his holiday visitation. His reasoning could vary anywhere from guilt to avoidance, but the effect is the same. It hurts the children.
Especially during the holidays, most children want to see their family, split or not. It reinforces to them that they are still loved. Not seeing their father for a holiday will create more stress on the kids, making it much more difficult for them to enjoy the holiday. I cannot stress this enough, make sure you are not the one keeping your children from their father. The kids will know and hold it against you.
Many mothers wish the dads would reach out to see their children during the holidays, even if he is behind on child support. Whether he is the ideal divorced dad or the lowest deadbeat, to the children, he is still their father. Your children will be better off knowing that he wants to be as much a part of their lives as he can.
If he takes the children for a holiday, it can make for a lonely holiday. A suddenly empty, quiet house isn’t what many people want on days where people are supposed to be together.
You may even feel resentful that you spend all the ‘regular’ days taking care of the children, getting them to school and band practice, while he gets to have a fun holiday visitation. That’s normal. Even if he is a truly no-good deadbeat, your children deserve the opportunity to be loved by him.
The best you can do is take this time to take care of yourself because we can all use a little more self-care time. You work hard, and you deserve it. Treat that day as an average day. It’s not Christmas; it’s Thursday. Then, when you have your children, that is the holiday. Just because the calendar says it isn’t the official day doesn’t mean it can’t be for you. Besides, what child complains about celebrating twice? As long as they enjoy the holiday with as little stress as possible, the holiday in two homes was a success.