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  • Writer's pictureClaire Edwards

Child Custody: Holiday Schedule

Parents want to spend time with their children during the holidays. With divorced parents, it can be challenging to decide who gets what holiday. For the most part, the court will accept any schedule both parents choose so long as it is in the best interests of the children. However, deciding which holidays your child spends with each parent takes some thought and planning.

Why is a holiday schedule important?

A holiday schedule, sometimes called a “holiday visitation schedule,” allows parents and children to plan for future holidays. It also gives children security because they know where they’ll be during specific holidays.

A well-planned holiday schedule also eliminates arguments and disagreements come holiday time - this is why it’s best to establish the holiday visitation schedule in the parenting plan.

Holidays are often an opportunity for kids to see family members they are not frequently around. They need to bond with these family members on both sides of their family. That is why they need to have the chance to spend the holidays with both parents.

Decide what holidays your child will celebrate.

When you exercise joint custody, you must make major decisions with the other parent. This includes deciding which religion your child practices, which would also determine what religious holidays your child celebrates.

Your parenting plan should outline both the religious holidays as well as your non-religious holiday visitation schedule.

Ways to arrange custody for holidays:

You might want to share major holidays and celebrate smaller holidays with your child, during your regular visitation time. You may want to alternate holidays each year. Regardless of what you choose, be very clear in how you plan to split holiday time in your parenting plan, so there are no surprises later on.

When creating your parenting plan, take into consideration that there are different options when it comes to sharing holidays with your children.

Here are some of the ways you can create your holiday schedule.

  • Sharing holiday time - With this arrangement, one parent picks up the child at the beginning of the school break. The child spends the first half of the school break with this parent and spends the second half of the break with the other parent.

  • Alternating child custody for holidays - Adopting this schedule means you alternate each holiday, each year.

  • Splitting holidays - When you split holidays, the child’s holiday time is split between both parents. In other words, each parent gets the child for a specific number of hours or until a set time.

  • Dividing holidays based on regular visitation - Many parents agree to a schedule for major holidays, but divide minor holidays based on their regular parenting time plan. If Dr. Martin Luther King Day falls on a week with Parent A, the child celebrates with them.

  • Special Holidays - Some holidays are special to the mother or the father like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. These holidays are typically spent with the correlating parent.

  • Arranging summer vacation - You need to determine how you will divide parenting time during the summer, as well. If both parents have equal parenting time, you might want to stick with the same schedule, especially if you have young children.

Things change. It is likely at some point that you will want to amend or modify your holiday visitation schedule.

If you want to make changes to your parenting plan, you should notify the other parent in writing. They must agree with you about the changes and sign confirming they agree.

After you receive their signature, you must file it appropriately with the court.

If you are modifying your holiday schedule or parenting plan in general, you should consult with your attorney to ensure it is done properly to avoid future issues with contempt and enforcement.

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