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Handling child custody issues during the holidays

The holidays are a time of family. Most adults shape their holiday traditions around the experiences of their own childhoods, whether it is preserving a special memory or jettisoning a tradition that only caused strife and turmoil. When a Maryland family is divided by divorce, the holidays can present a difficult challenge, especially in cases where child custody matters are in dispute. However, there are ways that parents can minimize the stress felt by their children, and preserve the holidays as a time of joy.

The most important thing to remember is to keep your child or children at the center of each decision that must be made during the holiday season. When, where and how the children are going to spend the holidays is less important than their happiness and well-being. This is not a time to focus on whether one parent is 'winning' or 'losing,' but on how the kids are handling the new arrangement.

Court agreements or orders in which the holidays are to be alternated may be a good solution for the parents, but are rarely good for the children. Not seeing one parent at all during Christmas can leave a child feeling sad and unsettled, which can make every year stressful for them, as such an arrangement only highlights the broken family. Parents should try to work together to ensure that the kids get to spend time in both households during the holidays, when possible.

While these guidelines can greatly improve the holiday turmoil for many divided families, there are other cases in which parents are simply unable to work together, even when the interests of their child are at stake. When an existing child custody arrangement is causing considerable harm to the child or children, it may be possible to ask a family court judge to make a child custody modification that addresses the issue. Parents who wish to try this approach should avail themselves of full knowledge of all applicable Maryland child custody statutes before moving forward.

Source: The Washington Post, "The holidays with kids and an ex," Janice D'Arcy, Dec. 6, 2012

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