Eisenberg, Middleditch & Spilman, PLLC

Child custody and gift giving can be managed with planning

Divorced parents may be dreading the holidays, especially if the divorce is relatively new. Perhaps one parent has memories of the previous year when things between the two of them were anything but jolly. Child custody issues may flare during this time of year, and parents in Michigan may struggle to keep things positive for their children. As difficult as the situation is for the adults, the children may be the ones who suffer more, especially if their parents cloud the holidays with arguing and tension.

Heading off those arguments in the weeks leading up to the holidays is a good way to provide a more peaceful atmosphere for emotionally fragile children. As stressful as one's marriage may have been, putting resentment aside can brighten the season for everyone involved. An important decision that should be made early is the schedule. When will the children be with each parent and for how long? When these plans are confirmed and written on paper or email, they can be shared with the children to avoid any anxiety or uncertainty.

It is common for divorced parents to overcompensate for the emotions of the breakup by showering the children with expensive gifts. Sometimes one parent will try to out-do the other by offering inappropriate gifts like expensive electronics or pets. Coming to an agreement about gift giving – perhaps even shopping together for the children's presents – may avoid the feeling that the children are a pawn in a game between the parents.

As trying as the holidays may seem, cooperation and communication will certainly ease some of the tension. However, it will take the commitment of both parents to make the plans and new traditions work. If one parent refuses to set aside grievances, the other may have to deal with negative emotions from disappointed or confused children.  Anyone in Michigan who anticipates struggles with child custody or other parenting issues over the holidays is encouraged to be proactive by contacting his or her lawyer for advice.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Tips to Survive the Holidays for Divorced Parents", Kyung Dickerson and Alan Plevy, Dec. 2, 2016

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