By Inna Materese
For parents working within a balance of a custody order, the holiday season can be an extra stressful time. Sharing holiday time can be tough in any year. Sharing holiday time during a pandemic can cause friction in even the most conciliatory of co-parents. Parents exercising physical custody not only have the challenge of avoiding COVID exposure for themselves and in their homes, but also limiting exposure that may take place during the other parent’s custodial time.
When you add in the guidance on gatherings from state and local health officials, you have a real challenge. Here are some tips to help navigate holiday celebrations for your blended family in this COVID world:
While open, frequent, and timely communication is generally of utmost importance in effective, it is all the more important when planning your 2020 holiday season. Communicate with your co-parent now about your expectations and goals for the winter holidays, including your children’s time off from school. Remember that both parents may have family traditions that are hard to pass up. Discuss with your co-parent your concerns, your intended plans, and proposed parameters for celebrations in both homes.
Knowledge Is Power
For many families, holiday celebrations may include church, synagogue, and or other religious community events. They may also involve volunteering or other community functions. While these are important and often critical pillars of our family and community life, the fear of exposure can be worrisome for some parents. Find out what you and your co-parent’s religious communities and other community social networks are doing to limit COVID exposure in an effort to ensure all members of the family can enjoy safely.
Set Ground Rules
Keep in mind that you, your co-parent, and likely your children have expectations and
sentimental attachment surrounding the holidays. If you or your co-parent is concerned about exposure to COVID via traditional celebrations, try to set ground rules for appropriate contact and protocols with others during this time. For example, you may wish to propose that both households and anyone either of you may see during the holidays self-quarantine for a period of time immediately preceding the celebration. You may wish to have both sides of the family follow proper mask-wearing protocols. Setting ground rules that apply equally to both homes can help ensure your kids have a consistent and healthy holiday season.
No one wants to add “go to court” to the holiday to-do list. However, sometimes impulses
cannot be over overcome. If you are truly concerned about an issue regarding your children’s holiday plans, the time to get it addressed is now. Remember that legal mechanisms may be slow-moving, particularly during the holiday season. This is particularly important if your or your co-parent’s holiday season celebrations include travel and pre-planned vacations.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Inna Materese is a Dischell Bartle Dooley partner. She practices family law, including specializing in complex custody issues, high-asset divorce, protection from abuse and support matters.
Dischell Bartle Dooley is a full-service law firm with offices in Lansdale and Pottstown.
Click here to learn more about its commitment to results or call 215-362-2474 to talk with an attorney.