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Parenting and the holidays: Settling legal custody questions

When divorced or separated parents think about the holidays, their attention may be drawn to the family law issues at stake. Many parents seek to address physical child custody issues during divorce proceedings in order to have a clear understanding of where children will celebrate important holidays.

Undoubtedly, providing clear expectations about holiday arrangements after divorce can be beneficial for the entire family, as it can prevent last-minute custody disputes. On the other hand, parents may not immediately consider the legal custody implications of the holidays. Legal custody rights allow parents to weigh in on important aspects of parenting, such as school choice or what values their children will be taught.

One thing that parents might have to address this holiday season is the issue of Santa Claus. As many children will hear about Santa at school, it might be important to clear up how parents want to handle this issue to avoid sending mixed messages. For example, parents might want to be on the same page about when to tell their child the truth about Santa. On the other hand, some parents may not want to encourage belief in Santa Claus at all, since it could conflict with their values.

Of course, Santa Claus is just one aspect of legal custody issues that could come up during the holidays. In other cases, parents might want to address broader issues of religion, especially if they have a religious background. If one parent is Christian and the other is Jewish, for example, they might want to spell out custodial issues relating to each tradition's holidays.

These issues can be very sensitive, as they might address important, sincerely held beliefs. In order to reach a settlement that respects the needs of parents and children, it may be beneficial to work with a divorce mediator.

The holiday season is defined by good cheer shared with loved ones. By taking proactive steps when negotiating a physical and legal custody arrangement, parents can help ensure that the whole family can enjoy this time of year.

Source: Wonder Woman, “Let your child believe in Santa,” Jane Gopalakrishnan, Dec. 2, 2013

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