When you combine divorce, visitation and the holidays, the end result can be a somewhat frustrating mess for parents who are divorced. And while we typically focus on issues related to the biological parents fighting over who gets the kids for which holidays, often times stepparents also want to be able to have their stepchildren -- the whole family -- together for the holidays.
A perfect example of this is one father who's been divorced for years. At the time of the divorce, his ex-wife vowed that he would never have visitation with the kids for the holidays. Not Christmas, Easter, Halloween or even the Fourth of July. Even weekends where it is supposed to be the father's turn, his ex-spouse always has some kind of excuse, whether it's a work party or some other type of function, where the kids need to be there, and not with their father and stepmother.
Now, the stepmother is questioning if this is necessarily the best choice. Would the 15-year-old and 11-year-old maybe like to switch off holidays?
So far, the father and stepmother have not rocked the boat, and are just going with what the children's biological mother wants. However, if they do decide to go to court, there is a chance that a new visitation schedule could be drafted in order to make sure that the father also gets the chance to spend time with his two other children on the actual holiday.
Overall, this case highlights the importance of making sure that you have a carefully drafted child custody and visitation agreement at the time of your divorce, and that you think ahead to make sure these plans are something you will be OK with for years to come.
Of course creating these schedules can be quite contentious, which is why it's advisable to contact a family law attorney to make sure that your rights as a father are also protected.
Source: The New York Times, "Parental Quandary: After a Divorce, Who Gets the Children for the Holidays?" KJ Dell'Antonia, Dec. 23, 2011