The holidays can be a stressful time for parents, particularly for parents who are separated and each want to spend time with their children. Holidays are an important and festive time in each child’s life when children form familial bonds and spend quality time with their family. When parents are separated and live in different households, deciding who gets to spend a holiday with their children can cause conflict and tension between the parents.
Fortunately, parents can oftentimes reduce conflict by developing a “Parenting Plan” or other written agreement which establishes a plan for splitting time with their children. By having an agreement in place, parents can simply follow or defer to the terms of the agreement instead of having to negotiate time with the other parent each year. At Greenberg Legal Group LLC, we specialize in working with parents to develop Parenting Plans and other similar agreements which aim to reduce conflict and provide our clients with the quality time with their children that they are looking for.
For holiday visitation, parents are generally free to structure time with their children in any way that is mutually agreeable to both parents. Here are a few ways that parents most commonly structure holiday visitation to ensure that their children have time with both parents:
Oftentimes, parents will alternate holidays based on even and odd-numbered years to ensure that the child gets to spend any given holiday with each parent in alternating years. For example, the parties may agree that one parent have Christmas in even-numbered years and the other parent have Christmas in odd-numbered years. This way, the children never go more than one year without celebrating any given holiday with a parent.
The parties usually take into consideration other holidays during the year which are important to them. For example, if Thanksgiving and Christmas are both important holidays for each parent, they may agree that one parent gets Thanksgiving in odd-numbered years and the other parent gets Christmas in odd-numbered years. Then, in even-numbered years, the schedule flips so that the parent who had Thanksgiving in the odd-numbered year will have Christmas the following year. This ensures a relatively equal distribution of time between both parents.
Instead of alternating holidays between years, parents may agree to split the holidays with their children each year. For example, if the parents wish to split the Christmas holiday, the parents may agree that one parent has the children on Christmas eve and into Christmas morning and the other parent gets the children starting on Christmas Day at noon. The parents may even agree to alternate how they split the schedule, such that they alternate every other year who has the children for Christmas eve into Christmas morning.
This schedule works particularly well for parents who live close to or within driving distance of one another. This schedule is beneficial for parents and children alike, as the parents never have to skip a year seeing the children for any given holiday and the children get to see each of their parents every year for the holiday. Depending on what family traditions each parent has for a holiday, the parents can structure the time tailored to their specific routines and traditions for the holiday so that each parent gets the most out of their time with the children.
In certain cases, it may be best for the children to celebrate a holiday twice – once with each parent. In this case, the parties would let their normal access schedule run through the holidays and they would celebrate the holiday with their children during their normal access time. Alternatively, the parents can designate that a holiday be celebrated with each parent on certain days – i.e. Christmas would be celebrated on December 25 with one parent and on December 27 with the other parent. Again, parents may incorporate an alternating element to this schedule so each parent gets the actual day of the holiday in alternating years.
There are many different ways to structure holiday visitation and no one schedule applies to all cases. Every case is different depending on each parent’s religious views, importance of various holidays to each parent, differing family traditions and other factors. Creativity knows no bounds when it comes to structuring time with children and a well-structured plan can reduce conflict for parents during the holiday season.
For any attorney assisting clients with coming up with a schedule for the holidays, it’s critical to understand what is important to each parent and how time can be structured to meet each parent’s needs. At Greenberg Legal Group LLC, we listen to our clients to understand what is important to them and use that information to tailor a schedule that is specific to those needs. If you would like to have a Parenting Plan or other written agreement put in place to address visitations during the holidays and throughout the year, contact our office at (410) 650-4242 for further assistance.