The holiday season will soon be here! Under the best of circumstances, parents may have conflicting work schedules and other complications during the holidays, but it becomes even more difficult when you have two – or more – families who have to coordinate holiday celebrations.
Here are a few points to keep in mind when planning for custody over the holidays:
Develop a holiday schedule
Regardless of the regular custody schedule, most parents have equal time over the holidays with their children. Holidays can be one of the most disputed aspects of a custody agreement, particularly for young children. When creating a schedule, first identify the major holidays that will be shared. If your children are in school, parents often include school holidays in addition to civil and religious holidays. School holidays would include spring break, winter break and teacher in-service days, since the children won’t be attending school on those days.
Consider the children’s needs
Most custody arrangements provide that the children’s vacation schedule will take priority over the regular schedule and the holiday schedule will take priority over the vacation schedule. Even though holidays are a special time, parents should guard against making plans that aren’t in their children’s best interest. For example, toddlers and pre-schoolers may have difficulty separating from their primary caregiver for more than a few days. Teenagers often want to make plans with their school friends or attend holiday parties with their friends. Parents also should consider the family’s traditions from past holidays, as consistency is important to children of a divorced family. These considerations should be factored in when planning the holiday schedule. If you remain flexible and positive in the way you include holidays in your regular custody schedule, you will keep the experiences enjoyable for children and parents alike.
Parents often rotate holidays between the parents, with major holidays being alternated year to year, or shared between them. For example, it is common for Christmas to be divided between the parents with one parent having Christmas Eve to Christmas Day and the other parent having Christmas day to December 26th, and reversing the schedule each year. Rotation of other holidays works well unless you have an even number of holidays, in which case the parents would have the same holidays each year. In those cases, you can divide the holidays into two groups, with the parents alternating between the groups in odd and even years.
Keep communications open and be flexible
Always communicate your plans with all members of the family, so everyone knows what to expect.
Set reasonable starting and ending times for each holiday, keeping in mind that on certain holidays the child may have school the following day.
If your plans need to change for any reason, be sure to let the other parent know as soon as possible.
If the other parent needs to make an adjustment to their schedule, consider whether it will negatively impact the children by agreeing. Remember that you may need flexibility from the other parent at some time and your willingness to be agreeable will probably go a long way in getting the cooperation you may need.