October is here and families are starting to fall into a routine with school schedules, sports practices, and looking forward to making Halloween costumes. Step foot in any retail outlet and they are already preparing for the holidays with Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations lining the aisles. While some may complain it is way too early to be thinking about these holiday seasons, for parents who are considering separation, have gone through a custody battle, or who may be in the midst of one, the time to think about the upcoming holidays is now.

For a family law attorney, the holidays are one of the busiest times of the year at the office as clients often wait until the last minute to address a holiday schedule. For some, they haven’t looked at their holiday schedule since making the agreement and need to request changes, while others may not have an agreement or court order with their co-parent. Holidays are the time to share special memories and traditions with your children, determining where and with whom your children will be during the holidays now will allow for a smoother and more enjoyable holiday season.

If you already have a custody schedule, you should first look to see how your regular schedule compares with your holiday schedule.  Holidays and other special time typically replace or supersede your regular custody schedule. Sometimes understanding this schedule can be tricky. Do I get make-up time for the days I miss from our regular schedule? What day does this holiday schedule begin and end?  Many times there are other school activities, chorus concerts, teacher in-service days, or snow days that need addressed. Maybe these events did not exist when your original agreement was drafted. Your attorney can work with opposing counsel to address any changes that need to be made to your current schedule, or clarify unforeseen gaps.

If you do not have a holiday schedule in place, there are a number of ways to split or alternate these holidays based on distance between the co-parents and traditions of the parents. For example, some parents decide to alternate the holidays in which one parent would have custody for Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving break while the other parent would exercise custody on Christmas and winter break. This arrangement would then flip on the following year. Other parents choose to split each holiday. In this situation, one parent would have custody of the children from the time school recesses until after lunch on Thanksgiving Day, while the other parent would exercise custody from dinner time on Thanksgiving Day until school resumes. A Christmas and winter break schedule would be similar with one parent having custody from the time school recesses until Christmas Eve and the other parent exercising custody from Christmas morning until school resumes. These schedules in which the holidays are split could also be alternated each year to ensure each parent is able to share in the traditions of the holidays.

You may find yourself in a situation in which you cannot agree on a schedule with your co-parent. This may result in the need for the court to decide on an appropriate schedule. Unfortunately, this process of getting your custody case in front of the court can take time. This is another reason why it is important to look ahead to the upcoming holidays and speak to your attorney now in order to resolve any potential conflicts in time.

The most important thing during the holiday season is the happiness of your children.

Addressing your holiday custody schedule now, will allow both parents to plan ahead, prevent conflict, and enjoy the time you have with your children.

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