As we approach the holiday season, people often are in court arguing over who has the children on which holiday. Rather than bringing out the best, holidays too often bring out the worst in everyone – especially if parents want an excuse to fight over who has the children on which holiday.
I would like to propose some solutions to the holiday-related parenting dilemmas that I have found to work over the years in my family law practice.
Common Holiday Parenting Time Schedules
A typical holiday parenting time schedule will alternate the major holidays so that parents will rotate Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Easter, Memorial Day, and the 4th of July.
The children will usually spend Mother’s Day with Mom and Father’s Day with Dad.
In many of my Halloween is an issue and often the schedule of holidays will include Halloween. Sometimes it is alternated. Where two parents can get along, the time can be divided or they can share in the trick-or-treating.
Thanksgiving can be alternated and typically will include the entire Thanksgiving break from Wednesday after school until Sunday evening, for example. In some cases, it can just be the day, but usually, it is the entire school break.
Christmas is a long break from school and I typically will have it divided with the split to be not equal, but to be on Christmas Day at noon or 1 p.m. This means that in one year, one parent will have the children from the beginning of the holiday break until noon on Christmas Day and the other parent will have them from noon until after New Years when school resumes. The parties alternate each year so that in the long run the Christmas breaks will equalize. This is a simple solution.
To maximize time with each parent, I suggest that Labor Day, Memorial Day and the 4th of July should be overnight holidays as well. In some cases, it can be the entire Labor Day and Memorial Day weekends.
In divorces where there are other religious holidays, such as in the Jewish faith, Islam, Hindu faiths, or African American holidays, these can be spelled out in the divorce judgment so that conflicts over these holidays can be avoided in years to come.
Every case is different and everyone celebrates holidays differently, but having language covering holidays can be very helpful – especially where two parents cannot agree on anything. In high-conflict divorce cases, the more that everything is spelled out, the better off everyone will be.
These are some of my thoughts regarding the holidays and parenting time. What are yours?
Henry S. Gornbein is a partner with the law firm of Lippitt O’Keefe Gornbein PLLC in Birmingham, Michigan.