VICKIE LYNN COCHRAN attorney at law
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Keep holiday custody stressors to a minimum

The holiday season is not always a time for happy family celebrations. Especially for divorced and blended families, the months between Thanksgiving and New Year's can be fraught with sadness, anger, disappointment and confusion. It's the duty of the parents to make the custody transitions from mom to dad to be as smooth and seamless as possible.

Ideally, this all should be succinctly addressed in your custody judgment. But perhaps you aren't quite at that stage of the process, and this year will be the first holidays your children will spend split between their parents. Learn how you can reduce the likelihood of tears and coax more smiles from them with just a little common sense and foresight.

Keep parental expectations realistic

If Dad is going out of town to visit relatives and Mom is hosting the family dinner back at home, there's not much chance the kids can spend the day with both parents. Nobody wants to spend the holidays in transit, shuttling back and forth from point "A" to point "B" and never lingering long enough at either spot to relax and have fun.

So, decide how best to handle the holiday visitation. Perhaps Dad and his family can share Thanksgiving with the kids, while Mom gets Christmas with them. If both parents live in close proximity to one another, splitting the days may be a little easier, but still could be a disruption to the children, who thrive on continuity and schedules.

Honor each family's traditions

If it's always been a hallowed tradition to go caroling with the cousins and then attend Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve for one parent's family, don't deprive the kids of this cherished tradition. Work it into the parenting plan, perhaps in exchange for unfettered access to the kids all day on Christmas for the other parent. Remember that there is always room for compromise and adjustment as children grow and their interests evolve and adapt.

Get it in writing

Verbal agreements work just fine . . . until they don't, which is why it is important to formalize your parenting plan with the Arkansas courts. Your family law attorney can make sure you include all pertinent points to cover all aspects of custody and visitation for holidays and the rest of the year as well.

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