Custody and Holidays / by Cassandra Hearn

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The holidays can be a wonderful time, especially when you have your family around you.  Holidays are a great time to bond with your close and extended family members, carry on old traditions and start some new ones.  However, if you have custody issues with a current or former partner, the holidays can be more complicated.

One of the first issues will always be whether or not you already have a court order.  Holidays are almost always specifically addressed in custody orders.  The majority of the time, these holidays will either be split by the parents or alternating years.  There will also be specific drop off and pick up times.  Parents with these orders need to understand that the holiday time provisions override the provisions for regular visitation.  For example, if a father has every other weekend visitation, if it is the mother’s year to have the child for Easter, the mother will get the child for the holiday, even if it would have otherwise been father’s visitation time.

If parents do not yet have a custody order, they should carefully consider what would be the best holiday schedule to fit their family.  Parents should think about the traditions that they have and that they would like to see carried on, and attempt to fashion a holiday schedule to suit their family’s particular needs.  Parents should not always assume that the children should always be with half-siblings on major holidays.  Although the courts do not overlook the importance of bonding between half-siblings, the right of a parent to spend time with a child will override that consideration.

Creating an agreed holiday schedule between the parents has significant advantages.  For one thing, as mentioned above, the parents can take into account their respective families’ own traditions.  For another, parents are able to make time for two celebrations of the same holiday.  Parents can, for example, make sure that each parent has the ability to have a large Thanksgiving celebration with the child by providing each parent with a couple of the days during Thanksgiving break.  Finally, parents can carve out exceptions or time differences for particular holidays.  Halloween, for example, is one holiday when having a “standard” exchange time of 6 pm could be very inconvenient.  Parents should be mindful of this when making their own schedule.

Creating a parenting schedule is a complicated process.  We have experience in helping our clients to create a schedule that works for them and their family. Call today for a consultation.