As a long-time divorce lawyer in Charleston SC, I have seen an entire generation of children processed (literally) through the court system as part of their parents’ divorce. Along the way, these children, many now adults with children of their own, have been analyzed, scrutinized, poked, prodded, debated, and carefully considered. Decisions and rulings beyond number have been made for them, and in their best interests, all as determined by the system. What we discover at this point, however, is that these children feel that they have not been heard, and they definitely have opinions about the process, the rules, and the outcomes. They have been through it, and they are not shy about letting us know how they feel.
Consider these issues and the way that children view them:
1. Traveling on holidays.
The number one complaint of children who split time between households is that they do not want to travel on holidays. They want to be at home, enjoying their friends and their new toys, rather than catching a train, plane or automobile ride in the afternoon. For many youngsters, the travel is extensive and they are the ones doing it, not their parents. They have been surveyed, and they have spoken up: they hate it. But solutions exist. Christmas holidays can be divided on the 26th of December, not during the day on Christmas Day (as is typically the default scenario). Since such holidays are typically rotated annually, each parent will have a chance to enjoy the entire Christmas Day with their child or children. For those whose Christmas holiday vacation would begin on December 26th, consider a different holiday plan for your time rather than just repeating the missed Christmas Day.
2. Consider this real life example:
A wise father I know, with three sons under the age of 12, chose to make the second half of Christmas his permanent share of the holiday. His former wife was delighted to accommodate him – she was a holiday genius, one of those people whose home decorations belong in magazines, and she cherished the chance to really go overboard for Christmas. Knowing he could not compete with this, and that he could not provide anything other than a Christmas experience that paled in comparison, he chose to take his sons to Mexico every year on the 26th of December. He saved all year for a variety of trips and destinations. His sons loved it. It was different, it was cool, it was fun, and there was no pressure. It was not easy for him to say he would walk away from Christmas Eve or Christmas Day with his boys, but his solution to the angst of sharing was one that worked for his sons, and he put them first. Over the years (all of the boys are now grown) they developed an entire set of memories that they all still cherish. It has become their very own Christmas tradition, and one that they are now continuing in young adulthood.
3. Looking beyond the ordinary is possible and could work, if you put your children first.
The Mexican holiday may be impractical for your family, or beyond your means, or something that your work cannot accommodate. If your budget or work schedule requires that you remain at home during your second half of the Christmas holidays, be creative: become tourists in your own town. Take boat tours. Go to museums. Go fishing. There are many different things you could do every day. Put your cell phone down, turn off the TV, and make memories. Your children will be grateful.
4. All of the above apply to other holidays as well.
I often grit my teeth over structured visitation proposals (or time-sharing proposals, as they are often called) which have those famous 6:00 PM deadlines and offer parents no flexibility. Ask your divorce lawyer in Charleston SC to help you reach an agreement that is truly in the best interests of their children. Consider which holidays are most important to your family: Is Memorial Day just another day of work or do you have a family get-together? Is July 4th the week of your family reunion every year? Are your children accustomed to getting together at certain camps or religious gatherings every year? Does anyone really care about Labor Day or is it just another day of the week? Try hard to put aside any hard feelings you have with your spouse or former spouse, and consider what the schedule of time means to your children, first and foremost.
5. If you leave these matters to a judge, you don’t know what you will get.
There are Rules and cases to follow in Family Court. Each judge also has his or her idea of what a child’s life should look like, and it is very hard to predict for any family what a particular judge might do if they were assigned to a hearing in your case. You can suck up the “angst” of dealing with your spouse or former spouse, and think about the children and what they want and need. Age-appropriate decisions should take into consideration the traditions of both family groups, and try to maintain those traditions that the children have enjoyed over time. Don’t leave this sort of thing to a judge; they do their best, but judges in South Carolina have some of the most overloaded dockets in the country.
6. Young adults who have been raised under “cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all” time-sharing arrangements are most likely to have unpleasant memories associated with the holidays.
Their memories will be full of the necessity of packing to go to the other parent’s house, driving/flying/whatever to get there (most often in the middle of the holiday itself), missing their friends, their toys, their time to absorb and relax, and most especially of the extra stress on their respective families – which tends to be taken out on them.
As parents, you have a choice. Customize. Create. Consider. Your children will be forever grateful.