PARENTING PLANS: Customizing your holidays!

Brenda Waugh develops parenting plans with parents

Father's Day is Sunday---which brings up the question:  How do we divide holidays in the parenting plan?  Whether you are working with a mediator, with your collaborative attorneys, or on independently, once you have worked through the decision-making part of your plan and the primary custodial time, you are ready to work on holidays and vacation.  Here are some ideas on how you can divide those times to maximize the time that your children spend with their parents. 

Christmas:  This is one of the most difficult holidays to share in the U.S.  One place I like to start is to think about what traditions, customs, etc. your extended family enjoys that you might want to continue.  Do you like to attend Christmas Eve mass with the entire maternal family?  Does the paternal extended family go on a ski trip over New Years? Some families alternate so that the children are with one parent on odd years on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and the other on even.  Other parents alternate Christmas Eve so that the children are with one parent on odd years until 10:00 p.m. and then with the other parent from 10:00 p.m. on Christmas Day afternoon, and then flip it to the other on even years.  For more ideas, my prior blog posts may be helpful.

Winter Break:  Besides Christmas, you will also divide winter break.  If one parent has the children during school nights, that parent might have the children for most of the winter break.  If the parents are dividing time relatively equally during the school year, they may want to share winter break equally.  Often one parent will have the children from the beginning of the winter break until Christmas, and then the other parent might have them from their Christmas until a given date, to provide for the break to be shared equally.

Spring Break:  If one parent has the children during on school nights, the other parent often has the children for most, if not all of the spring break.  If both parents have the children on school nights, many families divide their spring break equally, with one parent having the children the first and the other the second half of the break.  Other families like to alternate spring break every other year to expand on the children's travel opportunities.

Easter:  Depending on how you divide spring break, you can include Easter in that division.  Some families alternate Easter and then split the break equally to provide for Easter Sunday to rotate.  In other families, especially those that live close together, the families share Easter Sunday so that the children can attend church with both parents.  If only one parent is Christian or attends church, that parent may have the children with him or her every Easter morning to continue that tradition.

Fall Break:  Like other long breaks, if one parent lives a far distance away, that parent may have the children for the entire break.  Different school systems have different breaks, with some counties having the whole week off and other places just Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.    If the parents usually share custodial time during the week, they may decide to share the Thanksgiving break equally as well.

Thanksgiving:  If the parents live close to one another, many families share this day with one family having the children from 9 to 3, and the other from 3 to 9.  Other families have one parent keep the kids all day Thursday and the other Friday through Sunday.  Your schedule will depend on your traditions and how you can maximize the time the children get to spend with their extended families.

Birthdays:  Some parents like to have their children spend the parents' birthdays with the parent. The hours will depend on the school and could include overnight stays.  Most parents want to share the child's birthday if they can.  Sometimes they will divide the day in half.  If the birthday is a school day, some parents will have the parent who doesn't have the overnight with the child that night have the child for a few hours after school.  Many families provide for both parents to have one weekend day or night close to the birthday to give the child a party.

Mother's Day and Father's Day:  Most parenting plans have the children spend Mother's Day with their mom and Father's Day with their dad.  It will depend on the schedule but that could be the entire day, from 9:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. or it could be the whole weekend.  

Memorial Day and Labor Day:   These two holidays can be considered with other Monday holidays, but most families that I work with tend to have particular traditions around these dates.  Often parents divide these two holidays or alternate them in even or odd years.  They usually include the weekend before the holiday with this date.

Federal Monday Holidays:  These include Martin Luther King Day, President's Day and Columbus Day.  Typically, if one parent has these dates off, the parents will work the schedule so that the parent has them for the holidays and the weekend before the holiday.  If one parent is living further away, he or she will often take this day along with the weekend before it since it provides additional time to travel for the custodial time.

July 4:   We usually look at schedules to see who works on July 4 and who dos not.  If only one parent is usually off, the children usually spend the day with that parent.  Often, the other parent will select a day close to July 4 to take the children to another community celebration.    If both are off, the day can be alternated in even or odd years, or one parent can have the children from the morning until dinner time and then the other have them for fireworks until the next morning.  

parenting plan can include holiday

Halloween:  This holiday doesn't matter much once the children are teenagers, but for young parents, both may want a chance to take the children trick or treating.  That can be accomplished by dividing up the time so that on parent has them 4-6 and another 6-8.  Other families have one parent keep the children on Halloween and the other pick a day close to Halloween where other communities may celebrate early.  

Other holidays:  Maybe another holiday is important to you,  New Year's Day, Saint Patrick's Day, or Grandparents' Day.  That's terrific!  When you develop your own parenting plan, you can chart the course for any holiday.

It may be tedious and difficult to find a fair way to divide holidays.  It is usually best to work with a mediator or an attorney in a collaborative setting.  This post will give you some ideas of what you can consider as you plan your first mediation session or four way meeting.  If you don't know what a mediation session or a four way meeting is, please contact me and I'll be happy to explain them!