How to Create a Holiday Custody Schedule That Fits Your Family
“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Or is it? For many families, particularly those dealing with separation and divorce, this is not always the case. The holidays can bring a lot of emotion to the surface, especially when there are children involved. Divorced parents often feel increased pressure to make the holidays “perfect” for their children, as a way to help compensate for their imperfect family dynamics. One of the most stressful things for divorced parents can be making the arrangements for their holiday custody schedule.
Holiday Custody Schedule – Who? When? Where? How Long?
Although being separated from your child at the holidays is certainly not pleasant, one of the best gifts you can give them is to avoid fighting with their other parent over the holiday custody schedule. The easiest way to do that is to work out a clear, written agreement well in advance, so that both parents are on the same page about the holiday plans and can schedule accordingly. Avoiding last-minute surprises is one of the keys to avoiding arguments.
3 Common Holiday Custody Schedule Arrangements
Below are some common ways that parents divide and share holiday time:
- Split the holiday down the middle. Divide the holiday so that your child spends part of the day with each parent. This holiday custody schedule works well for many families because it avoids either parent having to spend the entire holiday away from their child. However, it does require some extra planning and cooperation to pull off. In order to accommodate multiple family meals, traditions, etc. and prevent the child from having the spend the day traveling, the parents should make sure all details, including drop-off/pick-up times, are worked out beforehand.
- Alternate holidays every other year. If the kids are with Dad this Thanksgiving, next year they will be with Mom (or vice versa). This holiday custody schedule is often ideal when the parents, or the extended family, don’t live in close proximity to each other because it avoids excessive travel time. However, while this arrangement can be easier from a logistical standpoint, it does prevent one parent from spending time with their child on the holiday itself. To balance this, many parents will make arrangements to celebrate with their child on an alternative date, such as the day before or weekend after.
- Assign fixed holidays. If parents have different holidays that they think are important, they can agree to keep those holiday plans consistent from year to year. Obviously, this schedule is more rare because it’s often hard for parents to give up certain holidays on a “permanent” basis.
Holiday Custody Schedules are NOT “One-Size Fits All”
For most families, a combination of some, or all, of the above arrangements will ultimately work best. For example, maybe Dad has always loved Halloween, so Mom is willing to give up the day every year in exchange for being able to bring the child on an annual family beach trip each 4th of July. However, since neither parent is willing to not see the child on Christmas, Thanksgiving, or the child’s birthday, they agree to split those holidays and do a 2pm exchange. For all of the other holidays, they decide to alternate years.
The keys to creating a successful holiday custody schedule (or any custody schedule, for that matter) are communication, cooperation, and putting the child’s needs first. Having a written agreement in place is another crucial element in avoiding last-minute surprises and emotional disasters, such as one parent keeping the child from seeing the other.
If you and your child’s other parent are unable to reach an agreement amongst yourselves regarding the terms of your child custody arrangement, an experienced family law attorney like Fred L. Coover, Esquire can help guide you in the right direction. To discuss your unique situation and gain a better understanding of your options, call us today at (410)553-5042 to schedule an initial consultation with Fred L. Coover, Esq. in our Columbia, MD office. We look forward to serving you!
Disclaimer: The information in this blog post is provided for general educational & informational purposes only. It is not intended to convey legal advice or serve as a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.