The winter holidays, be them Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or school break, are generally a time filled with traditions, family get-togethers, good food, and gifts. As crazy and hectic as they can be, there is the potential for even more conflict and unexpected drama when they occur in the middle of a separation and the parents haven’t thought ahead about how parenting time is going to be shared.
Coming up with a parenting plan for the holidays can help resolve conflict between parents before it starts to ruin the spirit of the holidays. It gives the parents and the children a sense of certainty of where the children are supposed to be, at what time, and how they are supposed to get there. It is important to come up with a plan, or have the matter settled through mediation or by a judge well in advance of the holidays to avoid unnecessary stress. Holiday parenting can be as creative or as simple as needed to try and accommodate all the family members and traditions that might be involved. That being said, there are a couple common examples that may be useful if you are completely lost as to where to start.
The winter holidays can be split in half each year with the parents possibly alternating which half of the holiday they spend with the children each year; and
The parents can alternate which parent spends the entire winter holiday with the children each year so that one parent gets all the even years, and the other gets all the odd years.
If you are planning to make a parenting plan, along with what time each parent will spend with the children you may want to consider the following:
Phone and other contact information of each party, especially if there are plans to travel;
Transportation arrangements, especially who will be picking or dropping off the children;
If any phone, facetime or Skype contact is expected during the other parent’s access;
If necessary, whether another individual has permission to pick up or transport the children;
If one parent is planning to travel with the children, a notarized consent letter may be necessary to avoid problems with travel authorities;
Consider putting the parenting plan into an Agreement and/or Court Order to avoid misunderstandings.
It can be difficult to divide up holiday time when there are traditions that have been followed for years, or the extended family is expected to be present. It is important to keep in mind that the focus should be on the best interests of the children and that it may be worthwhile to change a holiday tradition, or make new traditions, to limit the conflict that the children are exposed to. If you need help developing a parenting plan for the holidays or have questions, our experienced Family Lawyers are available to assist you.