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Avoid scary surprises when it comes to Halloween and a co-parent

Halloween is often overlooked when it comes to divorce and shared parenting. It’s not considered one of the major holidays (at least not by the adults). But as the day approaches, that failure to account for Halloween can lead to drama and disputes for divorced parents.

Ideally, Halloween should be specifically addressed in the parenting plan to avoid conflicts. But even then, situations may arise that are not clearly spelled out in the divorce papers. Parents should not let their differences or ambiguous court documents ruin something that their kids so eagerly anticipate.

Halloween horror stories of parental conflicts

Many divorced parents find out the hard way that Halloween is a big deal and that they are not on the same page. Here is a sampling of common disputes that rise up ominously like a full moon:

  • It’s MY nightI don’t care that it’s Halloween. I have the kids that night.
  • It’s a school night -- Halloween falls on a Tuesday night this year, and Wednesday night next year. That creates parent conflicts over bedtimes for young ones and curfews for teens, especially when it’s written in the parenting agreement.
  • I don’t approve – One parent objects to costumes as too scary or inappropriate. One parent raises safety concerns about trick-or-treating in the streets or eating candy from strangers.
  • Not my department – The parent in charge refuses to take the kids trick-or-treating, or to the community festival or classmate party, but rebuffs the other parent’s offer to escort or chauffer them.
  • We have plans -- One parent makes Halloween arrangements with the child without consulting their ex.
  • I call the school party – If the school has a costume party or “fall festival,” which parent gets to attend?
  • I’m not paying for that – Costumes and candy can get expensive. Some parents will even make the other parent buy a second costume. I bought it. It stays here.
  • Oh, no you didn’t – Nothing brings out the custody demons like costumed photo ops or trick-or-treat excursions with the new spouse or dating partner.

How to get the treats without the tricks

When negotiating custody terms and parenting plans, co-parents should consult a calendar to anticipate all important dates. Typically parents divvy up the major holidays, plus birthdays, summer vacation and Spring Break. Yet they may neglect to address Halloween, school holidays, sports tournaments and other scheduled events that lead to conflicts.

Alternating years is one option. Some divide the evening into two segments so that each parent can participate in trick-or-treating. Both parents should be involved in the decision-making, by verbal agreement if not in writing, to prevent a cauldron that boils over on Halloween night.

Co-parents who are on good terms can work through conflicts that come up. Some parents use a parenting coordinator to help settle such disputes. In the worst case scenario, one parent invokes the court order to draw a line in the sand, increasing the animosity and possibly triggering court proceedings to enforce or modify the parenting plan.

The moral of this spooky tale is to deal with divorce-related disputes on the front end. On Halloween night, nothing should melt down but a Hersey’s bar and the only welcome surprise is your child jumping out to say “Boo!” 

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