A parenting agreement is important because it spells out everything in detail, avoiding future fights between co-parents about things like education, extracurricular activities, and of course, holidays. Holiday visitation should be figured out and written down in your parenting agreement at the time of your divorce, saving you from fighting and potentially even litigation in the future. Here are a few things to consider when determining your holiday visitation schedule.
Sharing vs. Alternating Holidays
In Arizona, family court tries to be fair to both parents and assign decision making rights and parenting time as equally as possible, and this includes holidays. Holiday visitation schedules usually follow one of a couple different models in order to keep things fair. Typically parents alternate holidays, which means that one year you might have your child for Thanksgiving and your co-parent has them for Christmas, and the following year, that is reversed. Another option is to share holidays by splitting the day. For example, you might have your child for Christmas morning while your co-parent has them for Christmas dinner. Any religious holidays that are important to you or your co-parent should be spelled out as well.
While most parents focus on major holidays when planning for holiday visitation, forgetting about minor holidays may set you up for fights down the road. Many parents continue the same parenting schedule for minor holidays as they do the rest of the year, but depending on your parenting schedule, that might be an unfair way of handling it. For instance, if the same parent has the kids on Monday every week, they have parenting time for a disproportionate number of holiday weekends throughout the year.
School vacations are another important factor to consider when writing the parenting agreement. In many cases, co-parents simply maintain the same schedule throughout vacations as they do throughout the school year, especially for long vacations, such as summer break. For shorter school vacations, such as fall break and winter break, you may want to specify in your parenting agreement whether you will be alternating or splitting those breaks.
Long Distance Parenting
Dividing up holidays may seem simple enough for two co-parents who live close to one another and share time fairly equally, but when one parent moves away, holiday visitation can get pretty complicated. Arizona family court tries to make decisions that are in the best interests of the child, and spending equal time with both parents would lack consistency when one parent lives far away from school, friends, and everything else the child knows. As a result, the long distance parent typically gives up regular parenting time during the school year, but gets more parenting time during school vacations to make up for it. Holidays are typically still split, but how they might be split is a little different, to ensure the long distance parent still gets sufficient parenting time throughout the year.
Finally, childcare should be considered when writing the parenting agreement. It doesn’t make sense for the child to spend a holiday or a school vacation with a parent that has to work if the other parent has that time off. For this reason, many parenting agreements specify that the other parent must be offered the parenting time first before childcare is arranged, especially during the holidays.
Putting It In Writing
When writing up a parenting schedule, it’s important that holiday visitation is addressed in detail. The parenting agreement is essentially your road map for co-parenting your child, so make sure it’s detailed enough that you won’t get lost! For help making sure your parenting agreement is airtight, contact Simon Law Group, PLLC, today.