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The holidays are supposed to be a joyous time in which we spend some much-needed quality time with our loved ones. However, for some, this season isn’t quite as cheerful as it should be. Some families are split into two different households, and they may be dealing with the heartache of spending the holidays apart for the first time.

For those families with children, that heartache may be amplified. What if the holidays are more important to me than they are to the other parent? Should we split all of the days of Hannukah? Who gets the children for Christmas Eve and Christmas day? And what happens on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day?

If you’re struggling with these issues, there are several ways you can resolve them:

Share the holidays together. If you and the other parent are on good terms, try spending the holidays together. This may be difficult, but keeping the family cohesive will only benefit the children.

Share the holidays apart. If you and the other parent aren’t in a place where you can share the holidays together, try splitting them so that the children see both parents on each holiday. For example, if you’re having an early Christmas Eve, and the other parent’s festivities aren’t starting until later, then have your children for the first half of the day. Then, let the other parent pick up the children so that he or she may have the children for the second half of the day.

Split the holidays. Perhaps Christmas Eve is more important to you than it is to the other parent. However, the other parent really cherishes Christmas Day with the children. You can split the holidays so that each parent is accommodated. For example, you can have the children on Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve, and the other parent can have the children on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Then, next year, you can alternate them, if you wish (or keep it the same every year).

Celebrate before or after the holidays. If you know that the other parent and his family always take a trip out of state during the holidays, try to accommodate the trip by celebrating with the children on a different day. You may not love the idea of celebrating Christmas with the children a few days later, but this will foster cooperation between you and the other parent. In the future, when it’s your turn to travel, he or she may be more open to allowing it.

Be flexible. Try your best to work as a team with the other parent. Holding a grudge and trying to make scheduling difficult will affect the children, which you should always try to avoid. Your flexibility is in their best interests.

If all else fails, seek help. There may be a respected family member, a priest or rabbi, or a mutual friend who is willing to step in and help both of you sort it out. If you don’t have anyone available to help you, perhaps you can seek the help of a reasonably priced mediator to settle the dispute. If none of these options work for you, then you can always find a lawyer you trust and ask the court for assistance.

No matter what, encourage your children to love the other parent. The holiday season is one for love and kindness. Give your children positive memories of this special time of year by fostering affection for the other parent, regardless of how you may feel personally. Your separation is for you and the other parent to deal with; don’t place the burden on your children.

The information and materials on this blog are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Being general in nature, the information and materials provided may not apply to any specific factual and/or legal set of circumstances.  No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. Nothing on this blog is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. If you require legal advice, please consult with a competent attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.

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