Holidays are a difficult topic for many families when deciding on physical custody. Some of the most common holidays to address in a custody agreement are Thanksgiving, winter break, spring break, and summer vacation from school. Below are some common ways to address these holidays in a joint/shared custody agreement:
Thanksgiving: Many of my clients alternate the entirety of this break. Others carve out the holiday and either a day before or after and alternate the holiday, leaving the weekend intact.
Winter Break: Many people divide the winter break holiday into two halves. Families, however, differ on how they want to define the “halves” that they each receive. Others carve out the specific holidays (Christmas and New Year’s) and follow their regular schedule for the remainder of this break. The age of the children is particularly meaningful when developing holiday schedules.
Spring Break: Some parents alternate the entirety of this break. Others, to preserve the flow of alternating weekends, divide the week in half, and each parent takes the half that abuts their particular weekend with the children.
Other holidays that you should consider addressing are all federal holidays (including Monday federal holidays and non-Monday federal holidays), Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and other meaningful religious holidays. Additionally, it is important in many cases to address days off from school that is not otherwise holidays, such as sick and snow days to reduce conflict and differing expectations later on.
Birthdays, both the children’s birthdays but also parents’ birthdays, can be addressed in many ways. Some parents just follow the regular schedule. Others carve out time for the non-custodial parent. And even others alternate these special days. Some parents even decide to address issues ancillary to birthdays such as the child’s birthday party (who will plan and who will attend).
It is particularly difficult when both parents have specific traditions over the same holiday that they want to share with their children. If you find yourself in this situation, you need to consult with a family law attorney to brainstorm options. Note that beyond holidays there are many other important issues you need to discuss and address in your custody agreement. This allows each party to be on the same page moving forward. It is crucial to meet with an attorney early on when discussing custody with your partner so that you can include all pertinent information in your parenting plan for the benefit of your children.