One of the most contentious issues of divorce is holiday parenting time. Usually parenting time for the holidays and vacations supersede the regular access schedule. Typically parents agree without difficulty on a parenting time schedule and will alternate holiday parenting time. So for example if one parent got to spend July 4th with the children in 2017, then the other parent will spend July 4th with the children in 2018.
However, a minority of divorcing couples have a very hard time coming to an agreement about where the children will be for the holidays. A father or mother may insist on adherence to a tradition that no longer fits the new family dynamic. For example, many families have a tradition, that on Christmas morning the children come out of their bedrooms, open up their presents and then the family sit around and eat a huge breakfast. One or both spouses may refuse to compromise and insist that they get Christmas with the children so that they can continue the tradition with the children.
This reluctance to compromise is often not good for the children and there are viable solutions to ensure that both parents are able to share in the holiday festivities with the children.
In order for you to successfully negotiate and agree upon a holiday schedule you should follow five best practices:
- Comprehensive Agreement – Agree on all parenting time for all celebrated holidays at the same time. In divorces many couples approach the holidays in a piecemeal fashion. For example, in August they will reach out to their lawyers to attempt to negotiate who gets the child for Labor Day. If the divorce is still ongoing, they will reach out to their lawyers in early November to negotiate Thanksgiving.
This piecemeal approach will lead to more tension. A better approach is for you to take some time in the beginning of the year and decide which holidays you want to spend with the children and which holidays you would be willing to have the other parent spend with the children. After you have made a list of the holidays, reach out to the other parent to try to come to an agreement:
- Trade Holidays – If you often have to work on July 4th, you could agree that the other parent gets the children every July 4th and you get the children on a holiday you have off every year.
- Alternate Holidays – A solution for parents who celebrate a particular holiday is to alternate the holiday every year. For example, one parent gets the children for the holiday in odd years and in even years the other parent gets the children.
- Divide the Holidays into morning and afternoon slots – Another solution is to divide each disputed holiday into morning and afternoon slots. For example, one parent will get the morning of the holiday in odd years, and the other parent will get the morning of the holiday in even years. This practice requires that the parents live relatively close to each other and that parents strictly adhere to the schedule for pick up or drop off.
- Bring Disputes over Observance of Religious Holidays to Your Attorneys – There are many interfaith marriages and sometimes disputes on whether to allow a parent to observe a particular religious holiday with the children may be an issue that the parents may need outside assistance in resolving. In this situation you must act quickly to resolve the dispute in respectful and calm manner with the assistance of your attorneys. If the issue cannot be resolved by counsel you may need to seek intervention from the courts.
There are many, many ways to compromise in scheduling parenting time during the holidays. If you focus on what is best for the children, plan all holidays for the year at the same time, and approach the negotiation in a respectful manner with a willingness to be flexible and compromise you will likely be able to reach a solution.