Whenever I draft a parenting plan, I pay attention to all of the holidays. But if you don’t yet have an agreement about parenting time, you may be wondering how to handle the holidays with your soon-to-be-ex.
All of the Holidays
In addition to the big holidays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, there are six Monday holidays when school is out – including Labor Day and Memorial Day. July 4th occurs on the same date each year, but a different day of the week. The reverse is true for Election Day, which some schools take off, and Easter – always on a Tuesday and Sunday, respectively.
If your family celebrates religious holidays, make a list of the ones important to each of you, and specifically address how to handle them in your agreement. These dates and days may change from year to year, so try to anticipate who will have parenting time during each holiday, and whether there should be a share or an every-other-year situation.
Knowing the days of each holiday, you can anticipate who has parenting time on those days and plan with your ex accordingly. For Monday holidays, many parenting plans state that the parent who had the child the weekend before will parent that child until Tuesday morning at school or camp dropoff.
A word of caution: Check to see if this would allow one parent to have both Memorial and Labor Day holidays. If so, then you should specifically address those holidays.
Best Practices for your Holiday Parenting Plan
Look at these holidays from your children’s point of view. The Court — and parents too — should consider the children’s best interests when developing holiday parenting plans.
When accommodating holiday schedules, I generally follow two rules: minimize transitions and preserve traditions.
If you and your ex don’t get along, try to find transitions where you don’t see each other, like pick up and drop off from school. Even if you do get along, consider how long a child will be in one place before she has to pick up and move on to the next thing. If your kids only have an hour at home before they go off to an event, it may produce more stress to get out the door than just transitioning them one hour earlier would have been.
Consider, too, how much time the children will spend in the car and what time they will be getting to bed. Do you want their Christmas Eve tradition to include driving home at 10pm from New York? Or is there a better way to allow them to enjoy the holidays with that side of the family, and still allow for them to spend another part of the holiday with the other side?
Your children are also going through divorce or separation, and they will mourn for traditions that are lost in the process. If your parents have Thanksgiving at 1 pm every year and your parents-in-law have Thanksgiving dinner at 6pm, why not keep the same Thanksgiving parenting schedule every year, instead of switching off to keep things “fair.”
Something I try to remember, even in my own life, is that “Fair does not always mean equal.”
Determine your Holiday Schedule Weeks Before the Holiday
As I heard one Family Court Judge say,
Christmas is Always on December 25.”
The meaning here is that Christmas parenting time is not an emergency. If you and your ex don’t agree on a holiday schedule, don’t expect to be able to get in front of a judge at a moment’s notice.
If you need mediation or court intervention, you will need to file a motion 6 to 12 weeks in advance.
As always, I’m here to assist you with your divorce and help you create a parenting plan that works best for you and your children. Let me know how I can help — you can contact me through the form below or call me.