Holiday plans are more complicated when in a divorce or custody battle, so it’s best to create a court-approved custody and visitation order, which may include how you share custodial time during holidays. Communication with the other parent and respect for the other parent’s time are essential to reduce stress and let children enjoy the holidays.
When making your custody and visitation plan, you can either continue your regular custody schedule year round and if a holiday falls on your day, you get that time. This is more common with less widely celebrated holidays. Typically for “big” holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, etc., you create a separate Holiday Schedule, which replaces your regular custody schedule on or around selected holidays.
Holidays can be shared on an every other year basis, such as one parent has Thanksgiving in even years and Christmas in odd years, and the other has the opposite, or holidays can be split the same way every year. For example, Dad has Christmas Eve from 4pm to 9am Christmas Day, then they go to Mom’s house at 9am, every year.
The “alternating year” option works best if there is a significant distance between respective family celebrations. Also, you should decide the duration of visitation, i.e. just the holiday (Thanksgiving) or the entire school break (Wednesday to Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend), to allow for travel plans.
The more detailed the schedule, the fewer problems arise later. While sometimes frustrating, remember both you and your families love your children and want to spend time together, and your children feel the same. Discuss each holiday individually and be forthcoming about which holidays are most important to you, including the days and times of anticipated family events, to effectively coordinate a schedule.
While creating a holiday schedule won’t solve all holiday “family drama”, it can alleviate foreseeable problems. Do what works best for your children, not for yourself. If you cannot reach agreements on your own, contact an attorney at the Reape-Rickett Law Firm to either act as a mediator or to provide legal advice.