With the holidays fast upon us, I thought now would be a suitable time to write about the issue of holiday parenting time. When parents are separated, they often have a set parenting time schedule. Oftentimes, there will even be a Court Order (often an MSA) laying out the parenting schedule. During holidays, however, a separate “holiday schedule” will often apply. In other words, even if you normally have parenting time on a Thursday, that may change if the Thursday in question is Thanksgiving.
How To Negotiate Holiday Parenting Time
When drafting Agreements, family law practitioners often use a standard holiday schedule that will alternate holidays each year. For instance, Father has children for Christmas Eve and Mother has children for Christmas Day in odd years, which is then reversed in even years.
That said, certain holidays carry different meanings to different families. I know that in my own family, Christmas Eve is extremely important. Parents may also celebrate different holidays due to different religions, in which case the standard holiday parenting time may need to be tweaked. What I would like every client of mine to know when it comes to this issue is that they consider the best interests of their children, and that they be willing to work with the other parent to craft a meaningful holiday schedule that works for their specific family.
There have been several times in my career where I have seen parents file Orders to Show Cause or Motions regarding holiday parenting time. Courts are hesitant to interfere with such mundane details of a family, and such arguments can waste a lot of money on attorneys and the court process. It is, in most instances, preferable to resolve these issues via a Consent Order. Again, any prior agreements will work as a sort of “rule-book” regarding holiday parenting time.
However, both parties should, if they can effectively communicate with one another, work towards tweaking the holiday schedule in their and the children’s best interests. For example, if a Mother is supposed to have parenting time on Thanksgiving morning, but learns she will be required to finish a project at work at that time, perhaps she can offer to switch times with the Father. This is, in my opinion, much preferable to fights over parenting time.
What Types of “Holidays” May Be Negotiated?
Just about any holiday the parties celebrate can be negotiated. Birthdays and other celebrations may also be negotiated.
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