Holidays and Parenting Time
Holidays can already be a particularly stressful time of the year. It can be worse for separating or divorcing parents and their children. How do we keep the holiday spirit alive in the midst of everything else that is going on during this time? Few things can ruin holidays for you and your kids like fighting over the holidays and parenting time with the other co-parent.
In fact, being prepared and planning in advance can greatly reduce potential problems. It also gives you and your family the opportunity to experience the positive side to the holidays, such as, being surrounded by supportive friends and family and appreciating what we do have in life.
So with keeping in mind that that best defense is planning and preparation, let’s look at what you can do, as a separating or divorcing parent, to make the holidays a more pleasant time for you and your children.
Create a Co-Parenting Holiday Schedule
If you’re in the middle of a divorce or custody matter, it’s important that you think about how you want future holidays to look for you and your children. One of the best ways you can decrease stress around the holidays for you and your kids is to develop a holiday schedule during your custody now, which maps out your plans for holidays to come. Although Minnesota law doesn’t require it, it’s a good idea to address holidays in your custody order or divorce decree.
Holidays Included in a Holiday Schedule
Most typically, these are the major holidays that would be addressed in a divorce or custody order:
- Christmas Eve,
- Christmas Day,
- Thanksgiving Day,
- The Child’s Birthday,
- The Parents’ Birthdays,
- Mother’s Day,
- Father’s Day,
- Memorial Day,
- Independence Day,
- Labor Day,
- New Year’s Eve,
- New Year’s Day
For some families, these other holidays may be important:
- President’s Day,
- Martin Luther King Jr. Day,
- Veteran’s Day,
- Columbus Day,
- Rosh Hashanah,
- Yom Kippur.
These are listed only as a reference. Some may not apply to your family. The most important thing to remember is that you can choose to designate whichever holidays you’d like and as many holidays as you’d like with the other parent. For example, some parents also include Grandparents’ birthdays in the holiday schedule, as well.
How does a Holiday Schedule impact Parenting Time?
The idea behind incorporating a holiday schedule in your custody order or divorce decree is that when holidays are specifically addressed, they legally trump the regular parenting time schedule. In other words, let’s say that the kids regularly spend every Sunday with Dad. If Mother’s Day was a designated holiday with Mom, then the kids would spend that Sunday with Mom instead of Dad.
What to Consider with a Holiday Schedule
In addition to thinking about what holidays you and the other parent value, you’ll want to consider what holidays are important to your children. For instance, if your children have grown up looking forward to Easter egg hunts up north at your in-laws’ farm, you may want to maintain the tradition and designate Easter to be spent with the other parent.
Generally, it’s best to maintain traditions that your children have enjoyed and also to be open and flexible to starting new traditions of your own. Depending on your children’s ages, it may be worthwhile to include them in these decisions and seek out new traditions that match their changing needs and preferences.
It may also be beneficial for the children to experience some holidays with both parents. For example, maybe you designate Christmas Eve with Dad and Christmas Day with Mom, or vice versa, again taking into consideration current traditions and plans with extended family.
As mentioned previously, when working together on a holiday schedule, parents can address holidays in as much or as little detail as they like. However, when it comes to incorporating the holiday schedule into your custody order or divorce decree, it’s usually best to include language specific enough so as to prevent conflicts down the road, but also flexible enough to accommodate special circumstances that may arise and the changing needs of your children.
Why Develop a Holiday Schedule?
Perhaps one of the best reasons to use a holiday schedule in your custody order or your divorce decree is that it’s a plan that’s specifically based on your family’s own specific needs and wishes. It also keeps parents in the driver seat. Meaning, parents, rather than a court judge, are the ones making the decisions that impact how their children are raised. After all, you, not a judge, know what’s best for your children.
In addition to incorporating a holiday schedule into your divorce or custody order, it’s ideal if parents can talk and plan out additional holiday details, such as, negotiating times, location and transportation, if possible, at least a couple weeks before the holiday. It may be useful, depending on the holiday and your particular family, to coordinate gift-giving for the child as well.
Basically, it all boils down to the the fact that the more planning and arranging of these details that can be done before the holiday, the more time, energy, and desire everyone has for celebrating the holiday.
Planning holiday schedules is effective at reducing family conflict and tension because everyone involved knows what to expect ahead of time.
Not to mention, advance planning has become necessary in some cases, since some children are now faced with multiple visits, and may be trying to coordinate the holiday with divorced or separated parents, step-parents, and grandparents all in different places.
For other divorce or family law questions, please consult the list to the left or the FAQ page. If you’re interested in retaining an attorney to help you, please feel free to contact my office for a consultation using the contact information on the left or the contact form on the Majeski Law home page. For Court rules, please click here.