Parenting Time and the Holidays
Holidays can already be a particularly stressful time of the year. It can be worse for separating or divorcing parents and their children. Parental fighting can ruin holidays for you and your kids. Arguments over parenting time and holiday logistics can be common.
Instead, parents can prepare in advance. This can greatly reduce potential problems. It also gives you and your family the opportunity to experience the positive side to the holidays. Finally, parents can use the new situation to maintain or start new holiday traditions.
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 great to maintain traditions that your children have enjoyed. However, it’s 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. New traditions should match their changing needs and preferences.
Also, the children may benefit to experience some holidays with both parents. For example, Christmas Eve with Dad and Christmas Day with Mom, or vice versa. These decisions should take 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, focus on two things.
- The order should be specific enough 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?
Parents who develop their own holiday schedule can make it specifically based on their family’s own specific needs and wishes. This also keeps parents in the driver seat. Meaning, parents, rather than a Judge, are the ones making the decisions that impact how their children are raised.
Additionally, it’s ideal if parents can talk and plan out additional holiday details. This includes negotiating times, location and transportation, if possible, at least a couple weeks before the holiday. It may be useful to coordinate gift-giving for the child as well.
Basically, if parents plan and make arrangements before the holidays, they can avoid unnecessary arguments and battles that otherwise take away from the kids’ holiday experiences.
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. 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.