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Child Custody Over the Holidays

by | Nov 22, 2022

The holiday season can be challenging for parents with joint or split custody. Most parents want to spend as much time as possible with their children this time of the year. 

However, it is more than challenging for many parents to determine who gets certain holidays with their children. 

While the court will usually accept any parenting schedule that a child’s parents agree to, creating this schedule can be difficult. 

Parenting plans are a huge part of child custody in Wisconsin. Many people consider this plan the child custody agreement since the court requires it. 

If a plan is in the children’s best interest, the court will likely accept it. However, for parents, creating the schedule is a challenge. This is something that takes time, effort, and careful consideration. 

The Importance of Having a Child Custody Schedule for the Holidays

Holiday parenting schedules, which may be called holiday visitation schedules, let children and parents plan how to spend this time of the year. It also allows both parents to plan for their religious holidays. 

The plan also gives children a sense of stability and security since it outlines where they will be during certain holidays. 

A carefully planned holiday schedule can also help eliminate disagreements and arguments that are not uncommon during the holidays. 

Because of the role it plays in your and your children’s lives, you must make sure that you carefully plan holiday time in the parenting plan. 

During the holidays, many children get to see family members that may live somewhere else. It is important to have time to bond with these people on both sides of their family. This is also why it is so important that children get time with both parents through the holidays. 

Determining the Holidays Your Child Will Celebrate or Observe

When you have joint legal parenting time, it means you must make decisions about your child or children with your ex-spouse. This includes what religion your child will practice. When you determine the religion you will practice, it also outlines what holidays are celebrated. 

The parenting plan needs to outline the religious holidays and any non-religious holidays in the visitation schedule created. Here you can learn about some of the common holidays that will be included in a parenting plan (depending on your religion). 

Religious Holidays 

Some of the most common religious holidays that are celebrated in the U.S. and that may need to be included in your parenting plan include the following:

  • Good Friday
  • Rosh Hashanah
  • Easter Sunday
  • Christmas
  • Diwali
  • Christmas Eve
  • Ramadan
  • Christmas day
  • Passover
  • Eid al-Fitr
  • Holi
  • Hanukkah
  • Eid al-Adha
  • Yom Kippur
  • Shavout

Other Major Holidays 

There are other non-religious holidays you may celebrate, as well. It is a good idea to work with your child’s other parent to determine where they will be and whom they will spend time with for each of these days. They include the following:

  • Thanksgiving
  • MLK Day (Dr. Martin Luther King Day)
  • Presidents’ Day
  • Father’s Day
  • New Year’s Day
  • Fourth of July
  • New Year’s Eve
  • Halloween
  • New Year’s
  • Labor Day
  • Mother’s Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Veteran’s Day

Additional Days to Consider in the Parenting Plan

While holidays are an important focus when creating a parenting plan, there are other special days that you should consider, too. While these are not necessarily holidays, you and your child’s other parent need to determine a schedule to help avoid the possibility of arguments in the future. 

  • Spring break
  • The child’s birthday
  • School holidays
  • The parents’ birthdays
  • Summer vacation

How to Arrange Child Custody During the Holidays 

You will find a few options for creating a child custody agreement that addresses the holidays. 

For example, you may want to share the major holidays and celebrate smaller holidays during your other visitation time. 

It is also possible to alternate holidays each year. This means that if your child spends Christmas Day with you this year, they will spend it with their other parent next year. 

No matter what type of schedule or arrangement you choose, ensure you are clear regarding how to split holiday time in the parenting plan. This will help eliminate potential surprises. 

When you create a parenting plan with your child’s other parent, be sure to consider that there are several options for sharing holidays. Some of the best ways to split time during the holidays to make sure it is fair for everyone to include the following:

Sharing Spring Break and Other School Vacations 

Your child will have several vacation days and weeks throughout the school year. A good way to split this time is by sharing them. 

If you choose this arrangement, one parent will pick the child up at the start of the break, and the child will spend the first half of the break with the parent that picks them up. 

After that, the child will spend the second portion of the break with their other parent. 

When school starts again, you can return to the normal schedule. This plan works best for longer breaks, like winter break. That is because these breaks last for about two weeks and prevent a lot of back and forth for the parents. 

It also offers a good arrangement for the Christmas holiday. Most parents will split the two weeks so both have time with the child during this time of the year. 

If you decide you will plan your parenting time based on the set school holidays, you should remember that they often change each year. As a result, paying attention to your child’s school calendar is a good idea. 

Alternating Custody During the Holidays 

It is not uncommon for parents to alternate holidays on the odd and even years. When holidays are alternated, both parents have more freedom and more time with their children. 

This plan is also better for children because it eliminates the stress of rushing to eat or opening their presents before going to their other parent’s house. If you choose this schedule, you will alternate holidays yearly. The difficult part with this is deciding what holidays the child will spend with each parent. 

For example, if Parent A gets to spend Memorial Day with the child and Parent B gets the Fourth of July, then the next year, this will switch. However, some families celebrate early. You can work this into the parenting plan if this is the case. 

It is also possible to agree to have your child spend certain holidays with one parent every year and then alternate the others. 

As you can see, there are several ways to alternate holidays; however, you should try to keep things simple if possible. If the plan gets too complex, it will increase the possibility of arguments and even the need for litigation in the future. 

Splitting the Holidays 

Alternating and sharing holidays are both plans that work for children and parents. These help to reduce stress while giving more holiday time to each parent. 

While this is true, some parents and children want to see one another on the actual day of the holiday. If this is the case, you may want to split the holiday. 

If you split the holiday, the day is split between the parents. With this, one parent may get to spend a certain number of hours with the child, and then they will go to their other parent. Usually, one parent gets the child for the first parent of the day, and the other gets the second half of the day. 

Determining if this type of schedule is right for your family requires you to consider several factors. For example, you must consider how you live and how your spouse lives and how difficult child exchanges tend to be. You should also consider if you are traveling over the holidays and if this will impact your parenting plan. 

You also must remember that there is a set amount of time on any day. Because of this, you should plan carefully to ensure that the child’s best interest is considered. 

If splitting the holiday is not in the child’s best interest, it is a good idea to consider an alternate plan. 

Using Your Regular Visitation Schedule to Divide Holiday Time

Some parents will create a schedule for visitation and custody during the major holidays. However, they divide the smaller holidays based on the parenting plan they usually follow. 

Creating the Right Parenting Plan for You and Your Child

There is no question that creating a parenting plan during the holidays can be challenging. While this is true, you have several options to consider. Be sure to keep the information here in mind, which will help you create a parenting plan that works for you, your children, and your children’s other parent. All this is important to create a schedule that is fair and that works for everyone involved.

Contact our team today if you need help.

Written by Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C.

Divorce | Family Law

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