When a divorce involves children, many parents naturally have trepidation about their child’s future in a new family dynamic. Questions always arise of how to handle holidays and milestones, such as birthdays, in a sensitive way that does not create additional family tension. The first year or two after a divorce often presents the most challenges to parents and children. The age of the child is also a factor in their ability to understand and adapt. The child’s living situation is often changed, and they are undergoing upheaval even in the most cordial of divorce situations. Most parents’ primary goal is and should be to ensure the smoothest transition for the child. However, in a contentious and bitter divorce, this can present challenges for everyone involved.
Options for Handling the New Family Dynamic
Divorce mediators and psychologists offer tips on how to best negotiate the transition. One recommended option is for the divorcing parents to develop a shared parenting plan. A parenting plan is ideally developed with the guidance of a neutral party, such as a divorce mediator. A parenting plan spells out responsibilities and goals for aspects of the child’s life in which both parents must work together. Holidays and birthdays are typically among the major issues which require an agreement.
In a less contentious divorce, parents may be able to put aside differences and continue the tradition of a joint birthday celebration with the child. This can help provide continuity and stability for the child during this time of transition. However, in cases where both parties cannot reasonably be in each other’s presence, such as a very bitter divorce, this is not a potential option.
One possibility some parents choose is to split the actual birthday between both households. In cases where this is geographically feasible, this can provide the child with the opportunity to commemorate their day with each parent on the actual date. Other parents will also decide as part of the parenting plan to alternate years with the child; this is often done for major holidays.
Another aspect of birthdays is developing a plan for shared expenses. Parents may choose to give separate gifts, or in some cases, jointly contribute if they are purchasing a large gift for their child. One important thing to remember is that gift-giving, as well as birthday parties in a divorce, should not be an opportunity to outdo the other parent. This only adds to the tension and places the child in a psychologically unhealthy position of dealing with competing parental loyalties.
Developing an agreement through a parenting plan is imperative for parents who want to minimize disruption for their child and ensure that birthdays remain a happy and celebratory event. If you are divorcing, it is always best to have the skilled guidance of an experienced divorce lawyer who has experience in negotiating family law matters.
Burlington County Child Custody Lawyers at the Burnham Law Group, LLC Help Clients Develop Parenting Plans
If you need assistance with a parenting plan or have a custody concern, the Burlington County child custody lawyers at the Burnham Law Group, LLC have the experience and personal approach you need throughout the divorce process. Located in Marlton and Somers Point, New Jersey, we represent clients throughout South Jersey, including Camden County, Burlington County, and Atlantic County. For a free consultation, contact us online or call us at 856-512-1461.