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The nights are getting longer, the air is getting colder and we're already in October. Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas will all be happening before you know it. That means that it's time to discuss your holiday plans with your co-parent and make any necessary adjustments to your visitation schedule with the kids.

For a lot of divorced parents, the holidays are a complicated time. Given the importance of family at this time of year, no parent wants to be separated from their children during the festivities. More than likely, you also have out-of-town relatives who also want to see your kids during the year. Unfortunately, you essentially have two choices when it comes to the holiday schedule:

  • You can insist that the custody agreement be followed as it is written and refuse to deviate for any reason.
  • You can work with your ex to make the holiday more enjoyable for everyone -- especially your kids.

As long as your co-parent isn't insisting on holding to the exact letter of your agreement, negotiating for a reasonably shared schedule with the kids doesn't have to be hard. If your spouse has custody on the holiday itself, see if you can arrange to split the festivities.

For example, you can probably arrange to take the kids trick-or-treating on one weekend night while your ex-spouse takes them to the school party. You'll still have all of the enjoyment of the season without a lot of stress.

If you have relatives that want to see the kids at Christmas, for example, see if your co-parent is willing to spare some time in the afternoon. Stress the benefits the kids get from having a close relationship with their relatives and keep your focus on the kids, not yourself. Just be prepared to "trade" some time with the kids out of your own schedule to make things fair to your co-parent (or let them "bank" the time for later).

The sooner you start your holiday custody negotiations, the easier it will be to plan for the season. If you're experiencing real conflict with your co-parent that makes negotiating impossible and may be harming the kids, talk to an attorney about your options.

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