In an ideal world, every child would have the joy of waking up to two devoted and loving parents every Christmas morning. Unfortunately this is not the reality for many parents and children as many parents get divorced and no longer stay in the same home. Christmas and co-parenting might be tricky, but it is certainly not impossible to make it work.
Christmas and Co-Parenting After Divorce
When there are minor children involved when getting divorced, a parenting plan (or care and contact arrangement schedule) will form part of the Final Order of Divorce. A well-drafted parenting plan will give proper guidance in plain language. The Christmas Holidays are important to many families and therefore a Parenting Plan should include a clause that clearly states what the contact arrangements will be over the festive season.
Holiday Contact – Example Clauses
Not all holiday contact clauses of parenting plans will look the same because not all families are the same. Many factors (which include the ages of the children and distance between the parents’ homes) might influence this. Herewith an example clause:
1. “The father shall have contact with the minor child for one half of the December/January school holiday which shall be divided on 28 December of each year. If the minor child stays with the father for the first half of the December/January school holiday in any one year, the minor child shall stay with the father for the second half of that school holiday in the following year.”
2. “Christmas day (which shall include Christmas eve) shall alternate between the parties each year starting with Christmas with the Mother in 2022 and Christmas with the Father in 2023.”
The parenting plan may also contain clauses relating to:
- Further contact via telephone calls, Skype, WhatsApp, email or FaceTime,
- Exact handover times,
- Details about the handover location, etc.
Christmas and Co-Parenting Pending Divorce
If the divorce will not be finalised before the start of the holiday season, there are two options:
- You and your spouse may agree on holiday contact arrangements with/without the assistance of your respective divorce attorneys.
- If you and your spouse are unable to agree on the holiday contact arrangements, the Court may be approached for relief. Only if all attempts to settle the holiday contact dispute failed, should this option be considered – as it can become very expensive and may unnecessarily add fuel to the divorce fire. Contact your divorce attorney for assistance.
3 Tips for Coping with Christmas and Co-Parenting After Divorce
TIP 1: PLAN AHEAD – WHO HAS THE CHILDREN?
Reduce anxiety for you and your children by finalising clear contact arrangements before the holiday starts.
TIP 2: FOLLOW THE PLAN
Try to follow the contact arrangements without fault. Do not change the contact arrangements last minute. Do not change plans without first discussing it with your ex-spouse or his/her attorney.
TIP 3: FOCUS ON YOUR CHILDREN’S BEST INTERESTS
“If your focus is on your kids, you’ll work it out any way you can for them and it’ll all turn out OK. I found that to be true in this process every single time. It’s not always easy to reschedule or swallow my pride or bite my tongue or turn the other cheek, but if it’s making it easier or better for the kids, it’s what I try to do. I might have to put up with a series of inconveniences sometimes, but what’s that in the face of keeping the drama out of my children’s lives? It’s a no-brainer, really.” (Ellie DeLano)
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Nazli Williams, divorce attorney at iedivorce and Patton Williams Attorneys, co-author of What You Should Know Before Filing for Divorce (2020 edition) is an admitted attorney of the High Court of South Africa, specialising in Divorce and Family Law matters. Her fields of expertise and interest include Divorce Law, Family Law and International Divorce Law. Her vision is to demystify Family Law processes, helping good people in plain language and with great technology, to achieve