Holidays After Divorce

Holidays are always a fun time to look forward to, and this is even truer if you have small children.  Whether the holiday is Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July, just spring break, or any of the other holidays your family may celebrate together, building traditions and spending time together is at the heart of any solid family holiday celebration.  After a divorce, there will be rules and expectations for how minor children will share their time between the parents.  Holidays will be no different.  If you are facing a divorce or child custody case, you should think about how holidays fit into that context.

First, understand that although the major holidays may be very important to you, they are also very important to the other parent.  Your favorite holiday may be Christmas, and you and your extended family may have many long-held and beloved traditions leading up to the day.  By contrast, your spouse may have only modest festivities for this holiday.  These differences will not mean that the judge will automatically award every Christmas to you just because your family has more elaborate plans.  In most cases, the judge will create a schedule that allows parents to share time during these major holidays.  The focus is on allowing the child to have time with each parent, not only allowing the child to participate in extended family celebrations.

Next, keep in mind that most cases are settled out of court.  With this in mind, think about which holidays are important to you, and how you think is best for your child to spend these holidays.  For example, if you do not celebrate Easter, but your spouse does, you may want to consider offering to let your spouse have the children every year for Easter in exchange for extra time during another time of year.

Parents also need to understand that holiday time in a court order overrides the schedule provided for normal times.  By way of example, consider the situation where your parenting order provides you and the other parent alternate weeks with the children, exchanging every Saturday.  However, this year, the other parent is to have the child for the Fourth of July, which falls in the middle of your week.  The schedule ordered for a holiday will take precedence over the normal schedule, and the other parent will have the child for the holiday.  The other parent is not obligated to “make up” that time by allowing you to have an equivalent chunk of time out of his or her next parenting time unless the court order specifically states otherwise.

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