Parenting Plans and the Holidays – Creating Visitation Schedules that are Easy on the Kids
Coming up with a schedule for who gets the kids on Thanksgiving and Christmas can seem really hard. This is especially true when the children are really young. Many parents can’t imagine their children waking up on Christmas morning without them. Nor can they imagine having Thanksgiving dinner without them or not being able to join them for trick-or-treating. The holidays are special times for parents and children, and the issue of who will get to see the kids on the holidays (and what times) can become especially contentious.
But it is in everyone’s best interest to create a holiday schedule that is easy on the kids. Divorce and separation is already stressful for children, and dealing with that fighting on what is supposed to be a special day just makes things worse for them. Parents should always work together to do what is in the best interests of the children – even if it means that holidays will look a little different from what they expected.
I’ve been a Franklin divorce lawyer for a long time, and I’ve helped many clients put together parenting plans with holiday schedules that meet the needs of all parties involved, but especially the children. A few of the most common ways my clients have arranged holiday schedules include:
- Treating the holiday as more than one day and then splitting that time. For example, Christmas is often celebrated over several days, including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and even the day after Christmas. You can’t get Christmas with the kids every year, so be prepared to settle for Christmas Eve some years. Fortunately, some holidays, like Chanukah, automatically include multiple days of celebration. Work on dividing this time and alternating who gets specific days each year.
- Dividing break time. Most children have a school break of multiple days for holidays. For major holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving, kids can get nearly a week or even a couple of weeks off. Even singular holidays like Halloween or Easter can end up in a three-day weekend. Instead of focusing on how to split the holiday, just work on splitting the break time. You’ll end up with more time with your children, and you won’t have to rush through your celebrations.
- Alternating the holiday. You really want to be the one who fills the stockings and then watches the kids run down the stairs toward their presents on Christmas morning. Since you can’t get that each time, maybe you agree to alternate holidays. One year, you get Christmas morning, and the next year, your ex does. You can still celebrate with your kids, but you will just have to do it later in the day or at another time.
- Sharing the day. Hopefully, you and your ex are amicable and are able to co-parent effectively. If that’s the case, why not share your holiday time? You are still a family, even if you are not married. See if you can agree to share the day, spending it all together at your house or theirs.
I typically don’t recommend that you split the holiday. It’s too rushed to shuttle kids from house to house on Christmas, and it’s too much to expect them to eat a big meal on Thanksgiving twice. Trying to split that short amount of time can just make things more stressful for everyone.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world, and if every couple was able to make these decisions together or to spend time together amicably, there wouldn’t be a need for divorce lawyers. If you and your ex are having trouble agreeing on a holiday schedule, I can help. I am Judy A. Oxford, Franklin family law attorney, with more than 30 years experience on your side. Call my office at (615) 791-8511 or use the secure online form to schedule a free consultation. I help you negotiate a visitation schedule, or litigate the case on your behalf. Call me today to learn about your legal options.