The winter holidays can be a magical time for children, but they can be fraught with emotional baggage and logistical challenges for parents who are sharing custody or visitation of their children. Misunderstandings or conflict about how children are spending their holidays can make the season unnecessarily stressful for both parents and children.
Navigating the holidays successfully requires advance planning and cooperation between the parents — and a formal holiday custody and visitation agreement is crucial. Having this agreement in place spells out a child’s holiday schedule in advance so that there are no surprises, while making sure that the child gets to spend holiday time with both parents.
A custody holiday agreement outlines which parent the child will be spending time with on which holidays. This can include such nitty-gritty details such as what time a holiday period officially begins and ends for purposes of visitation, or which party is responsible for transportation. A well-crafted agreement should contain enough information to make the schedule and logistics absolutely clear to all parties and forestall any last-minute holiday-time disputes.
Types of holiday visitation arrangements
There are several different ways that holiday time can be shared. Some types of agreements include:
- Split holidays: In this type of schedule, a child may spend part of a holiday with one parent and part with the other parent. This could be all in one day or over several days. For example, perhaps a child would spend half of Thanksgiving weekend with one parent and half with the other parent.
- Alternating holidays: This type of arrangement means that the child would spend a certain holiday with one parent one year, and with the other parent the next year. This allows both parents to celebrate a variety of holidays with their children.
- Dual holidays: In this arrangement, the child would celebrate a holiday twice, once with each parent. The dates for each celebration may be specified in the agreement.
- Fixed holidays: In this type of schedule, the child would always spend a specific holiday with one parent. This may be the case if a certain holiday is particularly important to one parent, for example.
A good holiday agreement should meet the individual needs of the child and his or her parents, and families may choose to combine different types of arrangements for different types of holidays. The end result should allocate time fairly and be practical to execute according to the circumstances of everyone involved.
While the winter holidays might be the first that come to mind when negotiating holiday schedules, a holiday custody agreement should also address other special occasion days throughout the year. These can include:
- Birthdays (both the child’s and the parents’)
- Religious holidays
- Summer vacation
- Other school holidays
- Mother’s and Father’s Day
- Three-day holiday weekends
Any occasion about which there might be any question or conflict can be included in a holiday agreement.
Planning ahead for holidays
When you are negotiating custody agreements, it’s important not to overlook details such as holiday schedules. Consulting with an attorney who specializes in divorce and custody issues can help you get holiday custody agreements done right — for happier holidays in the future.