Parenting Time & The Holidays: How to Balance the Two

parenting time during holidays

With the holiday season just around the corner, now is a great time to evaluate your current agreement when it comes to holiday parenting time to ensure it is still meeting the needs of your family. While each state requires some sort of holiday visitation or custody schedule as part of their parenting plan, modifications will need to be made as schedules change and children get older. This time of year is a busy time of year for us, both with handling mediations and also helping our own clients craft holiday schedules that work to maximize the children’s abilities to be with each parent and extended families for all of the season’s festivities.

What Is Considered “Special” Parenting Time?

Holidays and vacations are considered to be “special” parenting time and usually take precedence over other schedules for visitation. In Illinois, the state recommends giving priority scheduling to holidays, second priority to school breaks and final priority to regular, day-to-day activities. However, while special accommodations can be made to ensure each parent is able to celebrate with their child, creating a detailed holiday schedule up front will help prevent any misunderstandings or conflict later on in the event the parents are no longer seeing eye to eye on time sharing for special events.

When creating a parenting plan, most divorced or separated parents will take into consideration the “major” holidays, such as Easter, Thanksgiving, or Christmas. But, it’s also important that parents factor in three-day or long weekends, school holidays or breaks, and other religious holidays. There is also the child’s birthday, as well as that of the parent or other family members.

The more specific and organized each parent is with their holiday and vacation requests, the more likely it is each celebration will run smoothly and be more enjoyable for all.

How Can Holidays Be Divided Among Parents?

The “special” parenting time schedule will ultimately depend on each parent, their preferences as well as their relationship with one another. Common ways parents divide and share holidays include:

Alternating holidays every other year – One parent may get the children on a holiday for an even numbered year, while the other parent will spend that same holiday with the children on the odd numbered years.

Splitting holidays in half – Parents may divide the day. For example, on Thanksgiving Day, one parent may schedule time in the morning, while the other has time in the afternoon/evening.  This arrangement is best where the locations for holiday parties are close, and there is minimal travel required for the children.

Scheduling holidays twice – Each parent will celebrate the holiday with the child. One may get the actual date of the holiday, while the other will celebrate either a few days before or after.  Some holidays can be celebrated over 2 days, such as parents splitting October 30 and October 31 for Halloween, as many local towns allow trick-or-treating on both days.  Another example is Independence Day, as there are usually fireworks displays on both July 3 and July 4.

Assigning “fixed” holidays – For some holidays, parents decide they want to “fix” a tradition for that particular holiday, such that the children will go with the same parent each year for that day.  The most common example is for Christmas, as many parents opt to assign Christmas Eve to one parent and Christmas Day to the other.  Under this schedule, the children will be able to establish predictable traditions for that holiday with each parent.  Some parents also will make agreements like this for popular three day weekends, such as one parent getting Memorial Day weekend each year, and the other parent getting Labor Day weekend each year.

Compromise is Key

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember the holidays should not be a stressful time, for either parent or the child. Instead, they should be about compromise. This does not mean one parent should feel like they’re “sacrificing” time with their child during the holiday season. Rather, the key to crafting a successful parenting schedule is to get creative about how to best share and celebrate special occasions while always keeping the child’s best interests at heart.

If you’re looking to establish or modify your holiday agreement or parenting time, contact a family lawyer you can trust. At Strieker Law, LLC our practice is focused on divorce and family law cases, and we will help you to reach an agreement for a schedule that works best for you and your situation. Call us today to learn more information – (618) 391-1120.

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