When considering a parenting plan either to propose to the court as part of a contested hearing or when putting together a stipulated parenting plan, everyone must tackle the sticky issue of holiday parenting time. Most parties agree to “alternating holidays,” but the details of what that means are often much more complex. The following are a list of points to consider when making up a holiday parenting time schedule:
• Start by pulling a copy of the school calendar, even if your children aren’t quite school aged yet. A good parenting plan should last you several years and should account for school attendance. Many school districts are opting for more frequent short breaks rather than what you may have grown up with.
• When deciding who gets what holiday in what year, think in terms of school years, not calendar years. If, for example, you decide that in odd years, Mother should have Spring Break and Father should have Thanksgiving break, understand that this translates into one parent having both breaks for any given school year.
• If travel is going to be involved, either because you will want to visit relatives or because you have an interstate parenting plan, consider dividing the entire winter break every other year rather than breaking it into two. Colorado is a very desirable place during the holidays which makes airfare extremely expensive. Conversely, New Year’s Day is one of the least expensive days to fly because there is very little demand for travel on that day.
• If you and the other parent are living in very close proximity, consider your holiday traditions. Some families consistently eat their Thanksgiving meal earlier in the day and some much later in the day. If there’s a possibility for splitting a holiday, this may be helpful in making that decision.
• For one day holidays, be specific about start and stop times and consider how you celebrate the holiday. If your tradition is to start the day off with breakfast, perhaps Mother’s day and Father’s day should be defined as 7:00pm on Saturday through 7:00pm on Sunday. If it’s a matter of dividing Fourth of July fireworks or Halloween trick-or-treating, you may want to define the holiday as 8:00am the day of the holiday until 8:00am the day after.