Patrick Baghdaserians is a family law attorney and father.
He says planning ahead, good communication and respect are key during the holidays.
This is Baghdaserians’ story, as told to Kelly Burch.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Patrick Baghdaserians. It has been edited for length and clarity.
Like many parents, I was worn out after Halloween. But it wasn’t because my daughters, who were 8 and 5, ate too much candy. It’s because holidays — even seemingly minor ones like Halloween — are fraught for my clients.
I’m a family law attorney in the state of California. Over 15 years in practice I’ve helped navigate thousands of divorces. Sometimes, even cases that seem complex can go smoothly if the parties work together.
But the stories that stick out for me are the negative ones, like the boy whose parents have been in court together since before he was even born. That time, they were fighting over his name. Now, he’s a teenager and I feel like I know him, because I see his family so often. That’s not the relationship you want with your family law attorney.
I’m a dad, so I get it. My kids are the most important thing in my life. My clients feel the same way. But sometimes, their egos make that hard to remember. Here’s what I’ve learned about the things coparents can do to promote the best interests of their children during the holidays.
Plan ahead, way ahead
The best thing you can do to ensure a smooth holiday season is to plan well ahead. I advise my clients to discuss any changes to the custody schedule at least three to four months ahead of time.
This sets a good tone for the conversation. It shows that you respect the co-parent, their time, and their schedule. Usually, with time on their side, parents can achieve a compromise that makes everyone happy.
If you can’t you’ll have enough time to file a motion and have a judge weigh in. No one wants to have to be in court over Thanksgiving plans. Yet, holidays are important and even judges recognize that sometimes parents need third-party help.
Next, think about the tone of your communication. Starting the conversation ahead of time is a great first step. Now, show that you are willing to be reasonable and negotiate.
I’m seeing more parents getting divorced when their kids are young. That means you’ll be co-parenting for a long time. You want to lay a foundation of respect in your words, tone and action. It’s the right thing to do, and in the long run, it will help you get more of what you want.
We all have issues we can’t budge on. But in a co-parenting situation, your children should never be one of those issues. Successful co-parenting takes flexibility and understanding.
Be willing to help your co-parent. It’s tempting to go get your revenge and demand a pound of flesh. But that just hurts everyone. Being willing to hear your co-parent and compromise with them goes much further.
Imagine you’re the child
Maybe parents agree to split Christmas Eve. But that means a lot of shuttling around for the child, on what’s already a busy, exciting, often overwhelming day. That’s why I tell my clients to put themselves in their children’s shoes and take notes of what is best for them.
Yes, you can split the holidays. But do you really need to split the day? Probably not.
That’s part of the biggest piece of advice I have for co-parents: make sure you’re child-centered, not parent-centered. If there’s one thing you and your co-parent can probably agree on, it’s that the interests of your children should come first.
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