Having to give up time with your child is always hard, especially when it comes to beloved family holidays and events. In most cases, parents have to give up some important holidays in order to keep others. Choosing a holiday schedule that works in conjunction with your wants, needs, and job schedules can leave everyone feeling good, but it can also be difficult for those who have no experience.
Hiring an experienced family law attorney can be the difference between fair holiday parenting time and being pushed to the side as a noncustodial parent. if you're not happy with your current custody arrangement's holiday designations, there's no time like the present to file for change. At Tommalieh Law, we believe that every parent deserves holiday visitation with their children, and every child deserves to see their parents during the holidays.
Do You Need a Separate Holiday Schedule?
If you and your co-parent don't want a separate schedule for holidays, you don't have to have one. If that's something you would like to avoid, it would mean that you simply received every holiday that fell on one of your custodial days. Many people choose not to go this route for very simple reasons: it is perfectly feasible that the primary custodian would receive most, if not all, major holidays every single year.
On an every-other-weekend schedule, starting the first weekend of the year in 2021, this would mean that the primary custodial parent would get Easter, Memorial Day Weekend, Labor Day Weekend, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Eve into Christmas Day, and the non-residential parent would get New Years Day, Valentines, Mothers and Fathers days, July 4th, and the end of Christmas Day. While this might work for some people, the change from year to year due to days shifting can cause confusion and issues.
How to Create a Good Holiday Schedule
A good holiday custody schedule should be agreed upon between both co-parents, and in the best interest of the child. Basic parenting plans are always a good place to start, as they will include a basic list of holidays. Depending on your beliefs or religion, you may need to tweak these lists and add or remove holidays dependent on your needs. You must also add in additional holidays, school vacation time like summer or winter break, spring break, holiday weekend for Labor Day, presidents day, etc, and any other breaks or 3-day weekends your child will receive from their school, as well as any extracurricular activities that affect your custody arrangement already.
After gathering your current custody schedule, your child's school holidays calendar, and your work calendar, you'll need to start making a list of the most important to least important holidays to receive. Major holidays (like birthdays) can be a bit of an argument, so consider giving up some weekend parenting time if you are desperate for them, or you can also consider allowing your co-parent those major holidays in order to get several more minor holidays.
While it can be tempting to write a schedule in which you get all major holidays and extended holidays, a holiday child custody agreement needs to be reasonable or you may find a judge deciding for you. While it is okay to pick one or two holidays that you will not budge on having, making sure your wanted holiday parenting time has a little wiggle room is important if you wish to leave happy.
The Big Holidays
The two biggest holidays that cause disagreements between co-parents are children's birthdays and winter religious holidays. Depending on your relationship with your co-parent, birthdays don't have to be a battle. If you and your co-parent are able to get along, having a shared birthday is a good option. For a shared birthday party, the parent who has that day will plan a birthday party that the other parent is able and incited to attend for a couple of hours. That way both parents are able to spend the child's birthday with them.
If having a shared birthday party isn't a feasible option, you may find yourself having to decide between your child's birthday and whichever major winter holiday you celebrate. This could be Christmas Day, the last day of Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, etc.
For many parents, they switch this holiday time annually, so that, for example, you may get your child's birthday and Christmas Eve on even-numbered years, and Christmas Day on odd-numbered years. If you end up not having your child during the holiday period that you wanted, don't forget that you don't have to celebrate the holiday on the actual holiday, you can celebrate with your child when they are in your care.
Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are normally considered alternate holidays and you can be sure to get at least one of them each year, though you can also consider giving yours up to trade for a different holiday.
There are two holidays that all co-parents should expect to miss each year. Their co-parents' birthday, and mother's or father's day. These holidays normally are given to the parent that they apply to automatically, and there is really no point in fighting against it unless the child has requested otherwise or the co-parents' birthdays fall on major holidays.
During Longer Holidays
For nonresidential parents, long school breaks can be a chance for them to catch up on missed parenting time. Many people have to give up certain amounts of their custody time with their children due to their work schedules and make up a lot of that time during summer or winter break. For a winter or summer vacation schedule, you will need to decide the number of days of vacation you are asking for.
This could be the entire vacation time, if you travel for work or live further away and are not able to have a set custody schedule or split vacation days where your child will spend an entire month with you during summer holidays, or an extra week during winter holidays. This can also apply to fall and spring breaks, though these breaks tend to only be a week-long each.
Extended summer possession of a child by a non-custodial parent does not make them the custodial parent, as there is a difference between possession and custody. If your co-parent is asking for an entire holiday period, there is no reason to worry that might change your legal custody agreement.
Your Child's Considerations
While it can be easy to think only about your own wants, and holiday fun or holiday memories to be made, you should consider speaking with your child about their wishes. While your child might love having Halloween with you because you make the best costumes, they may want to have Thanksgiving with their noncustodial parent for grandma's secret stuffing recipe.
While the courts will not take your child's wishes into consideration until they are 14 years old, that doesn't mean you can't take their wishes into consideration. At the end of the day, your child's happiness is what is most important and their wishes might be different from your own.
Learn More: How to Appeal a Child Custody Lawyer
Our Team is Here to Help With Custody Disputes
Whether you're considering even-numbered holidays, an odd numbered-holiday schedule, having questions about incorporating more obscure holidays, like military holidays, or don't know how to work around your child's school calendar, or have any other questions at all, calling Tommalieh Law should be high up on your priority list.
As experienced custody and family law attorneys, we can help you build a holiday custody plan that is agreeable to you, your co-parent, and your child. Your parenting schedule should be something to look forward to, not something that makes you upset. Call us today at 708-232-0017 to schedule a free consultation regarding any custody manners.