Parenting Time and the Holidays

Parenting Time and the Holidays
Parenting Time and the Holidays can benefit from a fixed schedule

Holidays and Parenting Time

Parenting time and the holidays can be a particularly stressful discussion.  It can be worse for separating or divorcing parents and their children.  Parental fighting can ruin holidays for everyone involved.  Arguments unfortunately can be too common.

Instead, parents can prepare in advance.  This can greatly reduce potential problems. It also gives families the opportunity to experience the positive side to the holidays. Finally, parents can use the new situation to maintain or start new holiday traditions.

Here are some holiday strategies for separating/divorcing parents:

Create a Co-Parenting Holiday Schedule

Parents can think about how future holidays will look for themselves and their children.

One of the best ways to can decrease stress around the holidays is to develop a holiday schedule. Although Minnesota law doesn’t require it, it’s a good idea to address holidays in a 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,
  • Easter,
  • Halloween,
  • 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, 
  • Passover,
  • Hanukkah,
  • Columbus Day,
  • Rosh Hashanah,
  • Yom Kippur.

These are listed only as a reference.  Some may not apply. The most important thing to remember is that parents can agree to whichever holidays each would like. For example, some parents also include Grandparents’ birthdays in the holiday schedule, as well. 

How does a Holiday Schedule impact Parenting Time? 

Parents incorporate a holiday schedule in a custody order or divorce decree to legally trump the regular parenting time schedule. For example, if the kids normally spend every regular Sunday with Dad, but Mother’s Day is a designated holiday with Mom, then the kids would spend that Mother’s Day Sunday with Mom instead of Dad.

What to Consider with a Holiday Schedule

Parents can consider what holidays are important for themselves and their children. For instance, if the children have grown up looking forward to Easter egg hunts up north at an in-laws’ farm, that parent may want to maintain the tradition and designate Easter to be spent with the other parent.

Generally, it’s great to maintain traditions that the children have enjoyed.   However, it’s also to be open and flexible to starting new traditions. Depending on the 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.  In this situation, also 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 a custody order or divorce decree, focus on two things.

  1. The order should be specific enough to prevent conflicts down the road.
  2. It should be flexible enough to accommodate special circumstances that may arise and the changing needs of the 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.