My cousin got divorced a while back and as our entire family likes to say “she got screwed.”
He makes so much more than you!
You should have gotten so much more in alimony!
How could he make you give back your engagement ring?!
Now I’m not sure that’s the truth as I wasn’t involved in my cousin’s divorce (talk about a conflict of interest), but if you look at the gifts she and her ex-husband have given their son over the years, you might agree with my family.
How About a Nice Sweater?
As any parent knows, married or divorced, every year around this time the conversation in your house turns to talk of the latest gadget, toy, trendy new clothing line, etc. Kids it seems have an innate ability to bleed you dry during the last two months of the year.
Where it gets even more dangerous is when divorcing parents don’t communicate about what they’re each and collectively going to buy the kids for the holidays.
In my cousin’s case, the ex-husband got their son a car and if you believe my family, without her knowing.
Going to be pretty hard to top that.
Especially since as my family opined, she got screwed.
The 3 Patterns
As co-parents, it’s important you each maintain a similar routine and structure for the children as they go from house to house according to the terms outlined in your custody agreement.
So why then when it comes to gift giving, does all of this structure go out the window?
Three reasons as far as I can tell.
- The non-custodial parent is assuaging their guilt – in these cases we see the parent who doesn’t have the children a majority of the time use the gift giving season to “make up” for all the time they did not spend with their children. This is especially acute for those parents who travel a lot or live far away. But as any kid can tell you, a new laptop only goes so far, parenting time goes much farther.
- It’s a battle of the ex’s – outspending one another is just another way to carry on whatever arguments you had during your marriage, but now in a different form. It amazes me that parents will say out of one side of their mouth “of course the kids come first and neither of us is going to do anything to pit them against the other parent. We would never put them in the middle of our divorce!” Then they turn right around and try and out-gift each other. Never thinking once that the thing they said they would work so hard to avoid was actually happening by their own doing! Yes co-parents – out-gifting each other IS putting your kids in the middle.
- I’ve got a Sugar Daddy / Sugar Momma – after a few years have passed, one of you has gotten re-married to Mr. or Mrs. Moneybags. When asked by your ex, you can always say “it wasn’t my idea, it was [insert name of new spouse here]’s idea! Your hands are clean, the kids are enthralled and your new spouse looks like a hero to them. But are you so sure this is a good idea? Probably not.
Gift Giving for Dummies
I hope it goes without saying (but I guess not as I am writing this article) is that when it comes to giving gifts to your children, you need to actively consult with each other!
Just like when there is a major medical decision to make or you get a phone call from the school asking to see you as little Johnny’s performance hasn’t been up to par lately, gifting is also a co-parenting activity. You wouldn’t decide to have your child undergo an operation or be left back a grade in school without consulting with the other parent, would you?
Now this isn’t to say you can’t each give the kids gifts that are strictly from you. But for any major gift, it’s always best that it come from the two of you, regardless of how much each of you contributed to its cost.
At Least Agree on This
In our mediation agreements, we address gift giving just like we would any other decision that should be made jointly. So if you’re about to go down the path of divorce, remember to bring this up when discussing your parenting plan.
And if you’re already divorced, confer with the other party, endeavor to reach agreement and in absence of the ability to do so, contact a mediation firm to work it out.