Parents in Arizona and elsewhere feel the excitement and stress of family relationships a little more closely during the holiday season. For families whose parents have recently split, the challenges of creating a new normal while still preserving traditions can be daunting.
There is no legal presumption in Arizona that one parent over another should have custody, and in fact, the court will assume joint custody if this is in the best interests of the child. There is both legal and physical custody, and where one parent assumes a larger custodial role, the other will have a parenting time arrangement.
Whether the parents come up with an arrangement on their own or receive a court order, however, it is essential that both sides stick to it. If one parent wants a change, negotiate and keep it aboveboard, especially during the holidays.
Advance planning keeps things going smoothly
Coparenting during the holidays is tricky, but fair negotiating and advance planning can preserve and nurture each parent’s unique bond with the child in a way that also allows them to observe their religious and family traditions. Planning activities that each parent enjoys with the child requires careful scheduling.
A hallmark of successful coparenting is open communication. Some strategies that parents can try include:
- Deciding ahead of time which gifts each parent will give the children so that they do not inadvertently have duplicates or forgotten items on that special day. Talking about their plans beforehand can avoid confusion.
- Dividing the winter break evenly so that each parent has equal time by dividing time weekly or even daily, with shared time on special days like Christmas and New Year’s. If appropriate, the parents might even be able to celebrate these holidays together.
- Alternating years that each parent has the children, which can allow each parent to make bigger plans that could involve extended trips.
Before jumping into any arrangement, it is important to consider each parent’s connection to the child, the age of the children, how well the parents get along, and which traditions provide a unique connection of a parent to the child. Trying to be fair for the sake of the children can provide a framework that minimizes disputes.
Keep it official
Even if the parents get along, any custody arrangement should be in writing. Parents should discuss holidays, birthdays and other special events that address religious observation, holidays and family traditions when they are making custody arrangements, and be sure that this goes into the custody settlement. For Tucson residents, having a legal framework for moving forward will clarify the arrangement and provide a foundation for making future modifications if necessary.