Helpful holiday custody tips for divorced parents

Divorced Maryland parents often struggle with custody exchanges during the winter holidays. In fact, it can be enough to turn even cheery souls into absolute Grinches as they argue over who will get to spend the majority of the holidays with the kids.

Whether your family celebrates Yule, Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, the following tips may be helpful in resolving your custody battles this holiday season.

Familiarize yourself with the custody order

Ideally, if you are already divorced, your custody order will have addressed the way the parents will divide their time with the kids during the holidays. Treat it as the blueprint you must follow or you could run afoul of the court and perhaps even face contempt charges.

Put the kids first

If you and your ex live close to one another, it might be easy to split time between the two homes. If the kids wake up with you, you might head out to worship services and then have an early holiday meal around noon.

That paves the way for your ex to pick them up for a second celebration with extended family and perhaps a later holiday meal shared in the evening. It's a win-win situation.

But if you live far apart, never make your kids spend the bulk of their holiday in transit from your house to your ex's. That's no fun for anyone.

Be flexible and open to compromise

Even if your custody agreement dictates that you are to have the kids this Christmas, if your ex's extended family is flying in from out of state for the holidays, it would be a kindness to your children to allow them some extra time to visit with their grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. Remember, it may be you the next time who wants a little flexibility.

Be clear about gift-giving expectations

If your ex earns twice the salary that you do, it's a given that they can outspend you on holiday gift-giving for the kids. While older children and teens likely realize the income disparity, the Santa set can be confused and think that their other parent may love them more if they get a bigger haul over there.

Instead, consider having both parents set limits on how much can be spent on holiday gifts to equal the playing field a bit.

Pay attention to what works

If you divorced when the kids were young and they are now in their tween or teen years, the custody schedule that you have in place may no longer be working well. It may be time to head back to your family law attorney to modify your custody agreement to better reflect your present circumstances.

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