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Plan your visitation arrangement for the upcoming year

The holidays are a perfect opportunity to meet with your co-parent to update child custody and visitation arrangements for next year. You will likely be near your co-parent or their family members. Instead of feeling dread or ignoring the elephant in the room, in the spirit of the holiday, use this opportunity to plan.

Open the discussion

If the idea of hauling calendars and schedules to a family get-together seems daunting, message your co-parent and let them know that you would like a pre-meeting. While the kids are off playing with cousins or new toys, find a quiet space where you can talk about what you would like to discuss at a meeting before the end of the year.

Let them know if you have concerns about second semester grades, sporting events, or vacations. If you haven't decided who gets the kids for the summer or Christmas next year, bring this up as a topic to tackle later. If they likewise have concerns, feel free to jot them down as notes for your next meeting.

Have the discussion

Some families add visitation discussions to the list of family traditions. This can be done at a neutral family members' house, or after the festivities are over.

At this discussion, bring everything you can to the table for January through December. Planning ahead can save you the frustration and complications of planning on the fly. It also helps to present a united front to your children, inspiring confidence and a sense of normalcy.

Be ready with what you are and are not willing to negotiate. Just because your co-parent wants the kids for two weeks this summer does not mean they can disrupt your July 4th barbeque. If you are alternating holidays between relatives, lay out plans now to avoid mishaps later. Inform the other parent of recitals, performances, concerts, games, or any other events that are appropriate.

Be sure that both of you walk away with copies of the plan, finished or unfinished, either hard copy or electronic.

Later discussions

If you need to circle back to summer plans or holiday travel, try to do so within two months. That way, the meeting is still fresh in your minds.

Likewise, if you are not able to meet with your co-parent this holiday but you know they may be stopping by their trusted relatives' soon, ask their relative if you can leave a secured folder for your co-parent to look over. Include documents with dates and plans they can look over before your next meeting. Tell your co-parent where you left the document and with whom but keep copies in case the folder gets misplaced.

While the holidays can be stressful, they also remind us that family is the most important thing in our lives. Planning for the year ahead is a wonderful way to care for them.

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