Well, it’s that time of year again. Never mind the last minute gift shopping you might need to do, if you are a separated parent, the real issue this season is who gets what time with the kids.
These days divorce seems to be almost as common as marriage. As a result, kids will be subject to the annual holiday access dispute more and more, carving up their school holiday time in half with less care than one would carve up the holiday turkey. Last minute changes to the holiday schedule cause upsets to parents and grandparents as well. So be prepared.
Plan out your holiday access schedule early, and stick to the plan.
The holiday parenting schedule that you and your ex-spouse agree to will depend on your children's best interests. There are a number of ways to work things out for school-aged children, but there may be other schedules that would work better in your situation. It's also important to think about practical issues in developing a schedule that is best for your child. For example, work schedules, transportation and how far you live from the other parent will likely affect the schedule.
You don't need to use any particular wording, like custody, access, parenting time, parenting time schedule or residential schedule. Choose whatever works best for you. The key is to be clear about what you mean and resolve the plan early so that everyone knows what to expect.
You should also remember that to meet your children's needs, you may need to be flexible with the schedule at times. For example, you may need to re-schedule a child's time with Mom if there is an out-of-town sports tournament during Mom's time with a child, but Dad is responsible for transportation to and from the activity.
Some common examples of how to divide the holiday access are as follows:
- The children will spend one-half of the Christmas school vacation with Parent A, and one half with Parent B. The Christmas school vacation will start at the end of the last school day before the holiday and last until the morning of the day school re-starts. Each parent takes ½ the amount of days of the school vacation. The parent that gets the first week should alternate by year, so that every second year the children have Christmas with each parent.
- The children will spend Christmas Eve from 9:00 a.m. until 8:00 p.m. with Parent A, and from 8:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve until December 26th at 7:00 p.m. with Parent B. Otherwise, the Christmas holidays will be spent with Parent A and Parent B according to the regular schedule.
When deciding your holiday access schedule with the kids, keep the following points in mind:
- Settle your holiday time with the kids as far in advance as possible. This will save you both from the anger, anxiety and potential disappointment of last minute failed negotiations.
- Think about the even year – odd year compromise. One parent gets first choice in even years and the other in odd years or simply switch the holiday time on an alternating year basis.
- If parents cannot agree, consider a mediator. A mediator is like a referee. Someone who will help you negotiate something that is fair and in the best interest of the kids.
- Let go a little. When negotiating, on your own or through a mediator, remember the best of negotiations regard the fact that neither side gets 100% of what they want. Compromise is key. You’ve got to give something to get something.
- If you still need a lawyer, feel free to contact my office. I can help you in a collaborative way to find a resolution that meets your family’s needs.
Holiday time is stressful enough what with gift buying, planning for the kids’ time off, visiting extended family members and all. The added stress of settling holiday access can derail what should be a happy occasion into a tangle of hurt feelings. Give a little to get a little, and most importantly, consider the kids.
Anytime with parents and family can be wonderful and magical. Plan ahead and make sure that your holidays with the kids are the best that they can be.