Most people look forward to the holidays. This is the season when many of us look forward to taking some days off from work and spending quality time with our family and close friends. The holidays are especially important to children, who often count down the days before their vacation starts and they are able to receive gifts and make special memories with their parents, siblings, and other family members.
When parents get divorced or unmarried parents are separated, it can be difficult for the children. Naturally, the kids want to be with both parents, and they want things to be like they were when their parents are together. Unfortunately, kids cannot be in two places at once. So, during the holidays, they usually spend part of the time with each parent.
During a divorce or parentage case, child custody and visitation must be worked out. Typically, the non-custodial parent is given liberal visitation rights, except in rare cases in which limited and/or supervised visitation is deemed appropriate. This arrangement should account for visitation during the holidays, allowing both parents the opportunity to spend time with their kids during these special days.
In general, it is best for parents to work out a holiday visitation schedule on their own. Each family is unique, and everyone has their own set of traditions. For this reason, they may not assign the same level of importance to each holiday. This may be true even between the parents. For example, Christmas and Easter might be more important to one parent, while Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July may be more important to the other.
Holidays and Visitation: What a Typical Holiday Visitation Schedule Might Look Like
In many standard visitation arrangements, the children rotate holiday visitation between the parents during even and odd years. Here is an example:
- The children may spend Thanksgiving weekend (Wednesday through Sunday) with their mother during even years (e.g., 2018, 2020, etc.), and with their father during odd years (e.g., 2019, 2021, etc.);
- Christmas eve through Christmas morning is spent with their father in even years, and with their mother in odd years;
- Christmas morning through the day after Christmas is spent with their mother during even years and with their father during odd years;
- New Year’s Eve through New Year’s Day morning is spent with their father during even years and with their mother during odd years;
- New Year’s morning through the next day is spent with their mother during even years and with their father during odd years.
This rotation schedule continues for the rest of the holidays throughout the year, with adjustments being made based on the preferences of the parents and children (if the children are old enough to provide meaningful input). Certain holidays may remain static, such as Mother’s Day weekend with their mother, and Father’s Day weekend with their father. School breaks, birthdays, and other special occasions should also be accounted for, and other factors such as traveling distance between the parents, extra-curricular activities the kids are involved with, and children with special needs should also be considered.
When Holiday Visitation Conflicts with the Regular Visitation Schedule
There are times when the visitation schedule during the holidays is in conflict with the regular visitation arrangement. Going back to our previous example, what if this is an even-numbered year (e.g., 2018) and mother has the kids on the first and third weekends of the month while the father has the kids on the second and fourth weekend of the month? This would be her year to have the kids on Thanksgiving weekend, but it happens to fall on the fourth weekend of November, which belongs to the father.
In this situation, the holiday visitation schedule generally supersedes the regular visitation schedule. This means that the mother would have the kids for three consecutive weekends; the third and fourth weekends of November, and the first weekend of December. This may not seem fair, and it is understandable that the other parent would be upset when this occurs.
It is important to keep in mind, however, that it would also be unfair to take away the extra time the mother is entitled to under the holiday visitation arrangement. It is also important to remember that, while these types of scheduling conflicts are likely to occur from time to time, the inequalities in the schedule will generally even out in future years.
For example, Thanksgiving will fall on the fifth weekend of November in 2019. So, with this scenario, the inequality would already be evened out in 2019 when the father has the kids on a weekend that would normally belong to their mother.
Making the Best of Holidays and Visitation Schedules
Visitation during the holidays can be a source of tension, and scheduling conflicts can be upsetting when one parent believes they are being shortchanged. When this type of situation arises, it is important to take a step back and look at the overall picture. Holidays and other special occasions are a time to be enjoyed with our loved ones, so in-keeping with that spirit, parents should try to do what’s best for their kids and be willing to make some temporary sacrifices along the way.
Contact the experienced Connecticut Divorce Attorneys at The APEX Law Firm so we can work with you to make sure all of your child visitation concerns are addressed. Call our office today at (860) 900-0900 or through our online contact form.