Monday, December 01, 2008

Custody, Vacation & Holiday Schedules

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone, hopefully anyone who shares custody of their children had a smooth holiday and was able to either share the day or knows that because they alternate, they will see the children next year for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Unfortunately, many people who develop custody schedules often forget to put their holiday and vacation schedule in writing. Many custody schedules include a line that states something simple like: "Holidays and vacations to alternate by agreement." However, this type of a plan is not always effective.

Holidays and vacations take planning.

Parents need to make arrangements in advance with other family members or to coordinate travel plans. In order to do so, parents need to have mutual expectations regarding their schedule. Therefore, in order to help smooth out the relationship with the other parent, it is best to map out holidays and vacations in advance. That way, you have something in writing, to fall back on, in case it comes time for the holiday or vacation and you and the other parent cannot agree. There is no better way to ruin a holiday than to find out the night before, or the morning of, that the children will not be coming. And if you have assembled extended family, the disappointment envelopes the whole holiday.

The first step in planning a holiday and vacation schedule is knowing which holidays are important to you and when you like to take your vacations. This may sound simple, but not everyone celebrates every holiday. Thinking about which ones you would like to celebrate with your children can open up some bargaining chips in negotiations with the other parent. For example, if you and your family have a big Fourth of July picnic every year but you usually work on Labor Day, perhaps you can negotiate with the other parent so that you always have July Fourth in exchange for the other parent always having the Labor Day holiday.

The first thing to do is to list the holidays that you may celebrate and determine which are important to you. Here is a list, probably not comprehensive for every family, but it should give you a good start:

Martin Luther King Day
President’s Day
Spring Break
Mother’s Day
Father’s Day
Memorial Day
Fourth of July
Labor Day
Columbus Day
Veteran’s Day
Fall Break
Rosh Hashanah
Yom Kippur
Christmas Eve
Christmas Day
New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Day
Winter Break
Here are some tips to consider when thinking about holidays and vacations. Being detail oriented now will help you to have stress free holidays and vacations for years to come. Remember the following:

1. If you travel, what would be the best pickup and drop-off times. For example, if you spend Thanksgiving at a relative’s house, two hours away, allow for travel time.
2. Who should provide transportation?

3. Are there holidays that you celebrate and the other parent does not? Use these as a bargaining chip.

4. Consider your work schedule and the children’s school schedules.

5. If there is a Monday holiday, would you like it to include the entire weekend or just Monday during the day?

6. Would you like to define Thanksgiving as the entire weekend, to allow for travel?

7. Should school breaks be alternated and rotated or divided midweek?

8. Would you like your custody schedule to include Mother’s or Father’s birthday or the child’s birthday?

9. Go through the list carefully – are there other holidays you would like to add that your family celebrates?

10. Reduce all agreements to writing and have it incorporated into an enforceable court order. You can always negotiate changes between yourselves but, in the event of a misunderstanding, you will have a set agreement on which to rely.

Best wishes for happy and stress free holidays.

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