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This Christmas season is going to be hard for me.
Once again the source of this pain boils down to my divorce.
When I petitioned the England court for full custody of my daughter, which I was awarded in the summer of 2016, one of the court stipulations was that my daughter would not only have to spend 4 weeks in summer every year but also every other Christmas break with her maternal grandmother in England.
It just so happens that 2019 (and every odd year until my daughter turns 18) is one of those Christmas breaks where she will be out of the country and away from me.
It really does seem unfair as there was a period from 2011 to 2016 where I was denied contact at all with my daughter for all 365 days of the year, not just Christmas.
I not only completely missed out on watching her grow from the age of 4 to 10 but I also had no idea what she even looked like as I was not sent photos or any updates whatsoever.
[As an aside, I found it incredulous when the opposing counsel approached my lawyers and me directly after the judge’s ruling and asked if the visitation in England could start that very first Christmas (2016), citing that otherwise it would be a year before they got to see my daughter again.
My lawyer calmly replied, my client has not seen his daughter for over 6 years so please excuse us for the lack of sympathy for your plight.
Their counsel immediately quieted down and did not press the issue further.]
I know that these visitations are the right thing to do for both my daughter and her mom’s side of the family, but it is still a bitter pill for me to swallow as no such consideration was previously given to me.
Unfortunately, with how prevalent divorce is in the US, there are a lot of individuals that experience the same roller coaster of emotions the holiday season brings.
The internet does offer tips for coping with divorce and the holidays, but for me it really is equivalent to applying a Band Aid on a much larger wound.
The old saying goes that every dark cloud has a silver lining.
I do my best to have an optimistic outlook in life despite a lot of things that life has previously thrown in my path.
So maintaining the “glass half full” approach, I do think there are some benefits of this custody arrangement.
Silver Lining #1.
My daughter’s confidence in international travel has grown by leaps and bounds.
Originally my daughter was forced to fly on airlines that offered an unaccompanied minor program.
For around an extra $300 each way, she would have an airline representative guide her through the airport and make sure she got to her destination safely.
The only downside was that the only airline that offered this program in my airport had no direct flight to London so she had to do a gate transfer and board a new flight.
This was an inconvenience going to England but was far more problematic for the return trip.
On the return flights, my daughter had to gather her checked in luggage at the intervening airport and go through customs before once again having to check the bag in for the final destination flight.
She actually completed the round-trip journey quite admirably and my fears were lessened for each subsequent trip.
As a bonus, when my daughter turned 14, she qualified to travel by herself nonstop to England with a different airline.
This not only made the journey that much easier, but it was also a less expensive option (the court ordered the former in-laws and myself to split all travel costs equally).
Silver Lining #2.
Although international custody arrangements add a degree of complexity (travel arrangements being the biggest), in the end for me it has been a boon.
I try to limit my involvement with the former in-laws as much as possible and thus, with only 1 or 2 trips a year to coordinate, I can do just that.
A more traditional custody exchange if all parties were local would be a lot more burdensome for me as I would have to constantly interact with people I don’t care for far more often.
Silver Lining #3.
I am blessed to have a fiancee that I can spend time with, otherwise it would truly be depressing around the holidays to be alone.
Sadly the same cannot be said for everyone during the holidays.
It is no wonder that depression tends to peak during the holiday season as people are bombarded with social media feeds showing others having a more traditional family celebration while they have none of that in their own home.
If you happen to be a non-custodial parent during the holidays, I feel your pain.
Just know that this is a temporary setback and that this feeling shall pass.
The premise behind custody rulings is to benefit the child and not make the child feel isolated from one parent and that special events can be split as fairly as possible throughout childhood.
They do say that absence makes the heart grow fonder and I always enjoy seeing my daughter come bounding up to me when I pick her up from these extended absences.
If your family is whole, cherish the moments you have with them this holiday season as there are countless others who would love to be in your place.
If you have friends who are not so fortunate, make an effort to check in on them as it really can be a tough season to navigate through without help.
If you are in search of financial help, please consider enlisting the service of any of the sponsors of this blog who I feel are part of the “good guys and gals of finance.”
Even a steadfast DIY’er can sometimes gain benefit from the occasional professional input.
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