EFFECTIVE CO-PARENTING AND PLANNING FOR A BAR OR BAT MITZVAH WHEN PARENTS ARE GETTING DIVORCED
By Jacqueline Harounian
Planning a Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebration requires parents to make dozens of decisions – big and small — usually a year or more in advance of the “Big Day.” Many of these decisions are financial in nature, and require parents to see eye to eye on a budget. Other decisions require parents, and their teenager, to discuss and agree on a myriad of confusing choices regarding theme, venue and entertainment, etc. The goal is always to create a meaningful and memorable milestone event that is well planned and enjoyable for the child, family and friends.
For parents that do not communicate well, or who are in the midst of a divorce, or already divorced, it can be nearly impossible to make the decisions that are necessary to plan the event. Planning a big event can stir up old resentments, even if the divorce is in the distant past. Battle lines are drawn between families, and negative emotions cause every issue to escalate into an argument.
When it comes to co-parenting and hosting a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, one of the biggest dilemmas is whether to temporarily put the divorce legal process on hold. Sometimes parents agree to hire a party planner as a “go-between”, i.e. referee. Others agree from the outset to have a kids’ party, with a set budget, and an equal amount of guests from each side. If ex-spouses can agree to put their differences aside and focus on having the best possible celebration for their child, this maximizes the chances for a successful event, with minimal discord and drama.
1. Stay on respectful grounds with your spouse or ex (and his or her new partner) to minimize the possibility of further conflict. Your attitude affects your child too, not just your spouse or ex.
2. Try to come to a general agreement on who is responsible for what, i.e. invitations, flowers, favors, and DJ. Depending on your situation, one of you may take on more responsibility than the other, or pay a greater share of the costs. Regardless, be mindful of the “blame game” that can result if something happens to go awry.
3. Use text and e-mail as means of communication if verbal expression is challenging. This method of communication provides clarity and a paper trail. It will also facilitate the sharing of vital information such as dates and times, arrangements, locations, appointments, etc. If verbal communication is not an issue, work on delegating each of the tasks. Will one parent do the organizing and coordinating while the other does the executing? How much weight will the child’s wishes be given regarding budget, number of guests, etc.?
4. Incorporate what is important to all three of you, not just one of you. Base your decisions on the premise of the child’s best interest. If you can handle it, have a brief family meeting in a public place to go over details. Always emphasize the joyous aspects of the event, and the significance of it to your child.
5. Keep your child updated, informed and involved throughout the planning. Assure your child that your personal matters will not interfere with his or her special day.
6. Be wary of your child’s feelings and behavior around this critical time. If you become too immersed in the logistical details, you will lose sense of the real purpose.
1. Argue in front of your child. Although this is a joyful experience, it can be stressful. Internal conflicts will only add to your child’s stress and your stress, and will make the process a negative one.
2. Exclude relatives and friends. Interactions with ex-in laws may occur more frequently as the date approaches, so it is crucial that you maintain and if you wish, improve these relationships for the sake of your child. A gathering of any sort is likely to host an array of opinions; do your best to block out negativity and radiate positivity. Remember, it is a happy event for your child that he or she will remember always.
3. Compete with each other throughout the process. You are doing this for the sake of your child, not for the sake of your ego and pride. Fighting for the child’s approval and attention will put him/her in an uncomfortable position.
4. Bring a date or significant other, unless he or she has already been introduced to your child and in the picture for more than a year. Above all, respect your child’s wishes about your new paramour.
When the big day comes, put a smile on your face and your best foot forward. Expect a wonderful outcome and do your part to make that the reality for yourself, your child and your family. Relax, enjoy and take plenty of pictures while making an abundance of beautiful memories. Mazel Tov!
About Jacqueline Harounian
Jacqueline Harounian, Esq is a partner at The Law Firm of Wisselman, Harounian & Associates, P.C. in Great Neck, NY and a recognized leader in the field of matrimonial and family law. She skillfully and adeptly handles complex divorce, custody and support matters in the Family and Supreme Courts on Long Island and the five boroughs of New York City. As a highly experienced trial attorney, Jackie nevertheless believes that a negotiated settlement, rather than litigation, is the preferred strategy for her clients. Jackie attended Columbia College and thereafter, Hofstra University School of Law (J.D. with honors). For more information about Jackie or the Wisselman, Harounian & Associates law firm, please visit www.lawjaw.com. The law firm is celebrating its 40th anniversary and offers a free consultation.