The holiday season is in full swing. For many, this means a time of cheer, family gatherings, and great food. Unfortunately for some, the holidays can also mean fighting over who is going to spend time with the children and for how long.
Over the years, I have had so many clients come after their cases were finished with another attorney and tell me they have no definitive schedule in place for the holidays. On the other hand, I have many clients tell me during their active cases that they get along with the other party and so they will just figure out the holidays when the time comes.
In divorce and family law matters getting along with the other party can go awry at any moment. Not having a holiday parenting time schedule on paper can lead to additional litigation and stress down the road that could easily be avoided. No matter if you and your ex-partner get along, you should always have a safeguard in place in case you and the other party simply cannot agree regarding holiday parenting time.
While I understand each parent will want to spend the holidays with the children, the first thing to remember is that your children’s feeling should be your number one priority– not your own. Put yourself in their shoes. They deserve to spend holidays with both parents and they are the only ones that truly suffer when parents fight with regards to the holidays.
When developing a holiday parenting time schedule; ask yourself– what is best for my kids? I often suggest that parties alternate holidays so that each parent will eventually have the kids on that particular holiday. For example, if mom has Christmas Eve during even years, perhaps dad would have Christmas day and the following year the parties would switch.
Some common ways parents can divide holiday parenting time are as follows:
Alternate Holiday Schedule: Parties can arrange for an alternate holiday schedule based on even/odd years. A chart would be prepared and each holiday would be assigned based on even/odd years with pick up and drop off times included so there is no confusion or disagreement.
Shared Holiday Scheduled: Parties that live close enough to one another may decide to divide holidays in half. This way the child will spend part of the day with each parent. I would not recommend this arrangement for parties who live further than one hour from each other as I am sure neither you nor your child would want to spend the entire holiday in the car.
Fixed Holiday Schedule: For parties of mixed religions/cultures (mom is maybe Jewish and dad is Catholic), the parties can have certain holidays they spend with the children every year. In this example, Mom would have the children for all Jewish holidays and dad would have them for Catholic holidays.
- Holidays I like to include in a schedule are as follows:
- New Year's Eve
- New Year’s Day
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day
- Presidents' Day
- Spring Break
- Memorial Day
- Independence Day
- Labor Day
- Columbus Day
- Christmas Eve
- Christmas Day
- Winter Break
- Your child's birthday
- Additional Days:
- Other Religious holidays (Passover, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Hijra, Ramadan, Diwali, etc.)
- Mother’s Day
- Father’s Day
- School Holidays (teacher convention days)
- Mother’s Birthday
- Father’s Birthday
While parties can always agree to change the schedule they agree upon if they are getting along, the schedule they put in place on paper safeguards the time they are to have with their children if things become less than amicable
My best advice to clients is to take care of any holiday parenting time issues before any given holiday approaches. We will always try to negotiate a fair agreement with the other side and if we can agree on a schedule, our office will efficiently prepare a Consent Order. Everyone will sign the Order and it will be sent to the Court for the Judge to sign.
If we are unable to agree on a schedule with the other side, we can always file an application with the Court and a Judge will make the call as to who will have the children on any given holiday. Again, timing is everything so you want to make sure to contact an attorney well in advance of the holiday in question.
The holidays are supposed to be a joyful time for all. Unfortunately, for families that are dealing with custody disagreements, the stress of the same can ruin all of the festivities. If you are having a holiday parenting custody dispute, do not hesitate to contact to Rozin | Golinder Law for a free consultation on how to alleviate the problem without ruining this time of the year for the children.