Holiday parenting time issues are extremely common. They often create strong emotional responses from each parent because not only is it their parenting time, but also it frequently includes extended family members visiting or who have traveled to see the children. The holidays are stressful enough without parenting time issues and an ounce of prevention can go a long way towards reducing or eliminating parenting time conflicts.
Common Holiday Parenting Time Conflicts
- Conflict between the regular parenting time schedule and the holiday schedule – This occurs when a parent’s regular scheduled parenting time falls on a holiday awarded to the other parent. There are a couple of key points here. First, the holiday parenting time trumps the regular parenting time schedule. Therefore, the parent with holiday parenting time will get his or her parenting time over the other parent’s regular schedule. Second, the parent with regular parenting time schedule is not entitled to make-up parenting time.
- Conflict caused by a parent’s desire to travel and see extended family – This is not always an issue if the holiday is divided in a manner that allows time for the respective parent to travel during the holidays. However, a significant number of parenting time plans only allow for 24 hours or the holiday is divided. If you have this type of holiday parenting plan you will need the other parent’s consent to extend the holiday and allow the travel, which may or may not be feasible.
- Conflict when parents celebrate either different holidays or the holidays differently – Some parents will celebrate different religious holidays, which may or may not be supported post-divorce. Likewise, the parents will celebrate the holiday differently. For example, some families celebrate Christmas with extended family on Christmas Eve and then have a family day on Christmas. Once the parent’s divorce, this can become a difficult and contentious issue.
Generally, a good detailed parenting plan can avoid a number of these issues. Consider these types of issues up front. Prevent not only the emotional damage that will result from the conflict, but also save significant legal costs in needing to have the holiday parenting time modified. Typically, in Arizona, the holidays are divided and alternated every other year. So, if one parent has Christmas this year the other parent will have Christmas next year.
Holiday Parenting Plan Considerations
- Identify the specific holidays that are important to you and your family.
- Be specific about the times that define the holiday.
- Consider whether or not the holiday may or will involve travel. It is important to build this into your holiday plan even if you do not plan to travel every year.
- Consider whether or not the holiday can be incorporated into the regular parenting time plan.
- Consider whether or not it is feasible to have the holiday included. For example, some holidays are during the school day (Halloween) and if you decide you want to split the holiday how will that happen once the children are in school? Kids are released from school around 3:00 p.m. and likely have to go to bed around 8:00 p.m. If you are dividing this time, each parent will get 2.5 hours. However, dividing this time means that one parent is transporting the children during prime trick or treating time. Is this really what you want for your children?
In the end, thinking about and discussing potential holiday parenting time issues in advance will prevent parenting time conflicts in the future. Effectively co-parenting will not only make your life better, but also will significantly improve your children’s lives as well.