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Handling a co-parent who insists on outspending you at Christmas

If this is going to be your first Christmas co-parenting your children across two homes, you’ve likely been focused on working out a schedule that will allow each of you to enjoy the holiday season with them. Whether you’re still working on the details of your parenting plan or have one in place, it may not cover how much money each of you can spend on gifts for the kids.

If you have a co-parent who is striving to be the favorite or just wants to “one-up” you at every turn, you may be concerned that they’re going to give your children expensive gifts that you can’t compete with on your budget. Maybe your co-parent can’t afford them either, but they don’t mind running up their credit card bill.

Is there anything you can do about it?

You can ask your co-parent to agree to set a spending limit for each of the kids’ gifts. You might be able to agree on one or two larger gifts and split the cost. However, you really can’t force your co-parent to go along with this. 

Unless your co-parent is buying them things that are dangerous or inappropriate for their age, you may just have to accept that, for whatever reason, they’re determined to spend a lot of money on presents. They may be doing it for the reasons noted above or perhaps out of guilt if the separation is still new. Likely, the reasons are more about them than what’s best for the kids.

Let the kids enjoy their gifts

Remember that the kids shouldn’t be penalized for their parent’s spending. Unless it’s something you don’t allow in your home, like a violent video game, don’t prevent them from enjoying the gifts in whichever home they choose. 

Every parent wants to see their kids get excited about their gifts. However, you can do a lot of other things to make the holidays special – and that they’re far more likely to remember in the future.

If your co-parent is paying child support but you’re still on a tight budget while they seem to have enough money to splurge on gifts, you may want to consider whether you have grounds to seek a modification or at least try to codify a spending limit before next year rolls around to help clarify expectations.