1. Well in advance of each holiday, refer to your existing Court Order, Separation Agreement, and/or Judgment of Absolute Divorce to determine what your Order and/or Agreement sets forth for each holiday.
2. Communicate to the other parent, (preferably in writing via e-mail or text), your interpretation of the existing Order and/or written Agreement. Specifically spell out who has the child(ren) on which day or part of the day, the times and where exchanges are to take place. Ask the parent to confirm that is their understanding.
3. If there is not an existing Order and/or written Agreement, again, well in advance of the holiday, contact the other parent (preferably in writing) and set forth your specific proposal and ask them for there thoughts and comments.
4. Put your child(ren) first, not yourself. Understand that the child(ren) should have the opportunity to spend part of the holiday which each parent and their respective families, regardless of your feelings for the other parent. Do not be selfish, it will come back to haunt you.
5. If there is not an existing Order and/or written Agreement, keep the child(ren) out of the decision making process. This in an adult issue, keep it that way.
6. Keep the holiday schedules simple and fair.
7. Keep your emotions in check. Do not get emotional with your child(ren) or the other parent about the schedule.
8. Do not place your child(ren) in the middle, do not make them choose who they want to be with, and do not make them feel guilty because they will not be with you the entire holiday. Remember, your children did not ask to be in this position.
9. Use common sense. Do not call the police because the other parent said they would have the child(ren) back at 4:00 p.m. and it is 4:10 p.m. Call the other parent and ask for their estimated time of arrival.
10. As a last resort, you can seek the assistance of the Circuit Court in your Maryland county/city and have a Judge decide how your family will spend the holidays. Each County and the City have different protocols for addressing these holiday access issues. See our November 17, 2010 blog for local Circuit Court “Holiday Court” protocols.