One of the most challenging things about being a divorced parent is navigating holidays and shared custody. Holidays are special times for families, which makes it difficult to juggle emotional and sentimental expectations with shared parenting. Here are a few tips for helping holidays go as smoothly as possible.
- Make sure no one is left out on major holidays. It’s understandable that neither parent would want to give up the biggest holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. There are a couple of ways to ensure both parents get equal parenting time around the holidays. One way is to split holidays, where each parent gets their child for half a day on the holiday. This ensures that everyone gets to spend every holiday together, but can also create stress for everyone involved. The other way is to alternate holidays, making sure the major holidays balance one another out, and then swapping the following year. This plan ensures that each parent gets to spend major holidays with their kid every other year.
- Decide how to handle minor holidays. Minor holidays don’t have as much significance as the major ones, but when it means a three-day weekend, it does mean additional parenting time. One possible way to handle minor holidays is just to continue with the regular parenting schedule. If the parenting schedule would create inequity, minor holidays can be alternated in the same way as major holidays.
- Divide and conquer with school vacations. School vacations generally follow major holidays, so it’s important to take them into consideration when writing a parenting plan for dealing with holidays and shared custody. Typically, if parenting time is shared fairly equally, vacations are shared too. This might mean alternating days or weeks, or splitting vacations in half, with one parent getting the first half of the vacation and the other parent getting the second half.
- Make a plan for summer break. Summer vacation deserves its own mention since it represents such a large portion of the year. Especially if your child is younger, you and your co-parent may find it best to maintain the same parenting schedule year-round, or you may choose to alternate weeks in the summer. If you and your co-parent will be living far away from one another, summer offers the opportunity to make parenting time more fair by giving the entire vacation to whichever parent the child lives apart from during the school year.
- Don’t forget about special events and family vacations. It’s best if your parenting plan is as specific as possible about holidays, but don’t forget that you need a way to decide on special events and vacations fairly as they come up. For instance, your parenting plan should dictate how to handle if there is a special event you would like your child to attend with you, but it doesn’t fall during your normal parenting time. Make sure there’s a way to negotiate a trade in parenting time for such events. In addition, your parenting plan should also address how to handle family vacations, such as getting permission from the other parent before taking your child out of state on vacation.
Figuring out how to deal with holidays and shared custody is one of the most important parts of devising a parenting plan, as a poorly thought-out plan could result in conflict later on. Legal guidance is vital to ensure you don’t make any of the common missteps in this process. For more information on holidays and shared custody, or to consult with a family law attorney about your parenting plan, contact Simon Law Group, PLLC, today.