Holiday Parenting Time Schedules

Holiday Parenting Time is one of the biggest stressors for newly separated or divorced parents. Every parent wants to make the holidays special for their children, but the holiday season can be fraught with anxiety as to how it is going to work.

This is the time where a holiday schedule is beneficial. A holiday schedule outlines which parent has parenting time on which holiday. Every Parenting Plan should include a detailed and comprehensive holiday schedule to reduce conflict and help make co-parenting easier and better for the children.

When creating a holiday schedule, make sure it includes the following:

  • Who has the children for each holiday, for every year (if on an alternating schedule)
  • When the parenting time starts and when it ends. (the more detail, the better)
  • How and where the exchanges are handled.
  • The Parenting Plan should make clear that the holiday schedule supersedes the regular schedule.

When a Parenting Plan includes these elements, disagreements and hurt feelings are greatly reduced.   

What holidays should be included?

The more detailed your plan is, the more successful it will be. Ideally, the plan would include every holiday, but some people only include the major holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and fall and spring school breaks. Most plans include Halloween, Easter, and the 4th of July. Some people include Labor Day and Memorial Day. Of course, Jewish, Muslim, and other religious parents include the holidays their faiths celebrate. When parents are agreeing on a Parenting Plan, they can include whatever holidays they like. That’s one of the benefits on a mutually agreed upon Parenting Plan.

It is common to include a provision that mom gets the child every Mother’s Day and dad gets the child every Father’s Day. Similar provisions are made for each parent’s birthday. Parents typically alternate the children’s birthday.

It’s not too late to create a Holiday Parenting Plan.

If you don’t already have a detailed holiday plan, it’s not too late to create one. Both parents understandably want to carry on certain traditions; that is often impossible when parents no longer live together. The key is to realize you are in a new situation and splitting holidays as evenly and fairly as possible is what is best for you and best for your child. Mediation is an effective option to consider if you can’t work it out on your own.

Parenting plans can greatly reduce the stress of co-parenting during the holidays and make them special for everyone.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I have a Parenting Plan and holiday schedule, but my ex and I do not agree? Does the parent with legal decision-making get to decide?

No. Holiday parenting time is a parenting time issue. Legal decision-making does not include the right to make parenting time decisions. Those issues can only be decided by parental agreement or by the judge.

What if my child said they want to stay with me for Christmas, but the Court order says it’s the other parent’s year?

Unless the other parent agrees for you to keep the child, you must follow the Court order and send your child to the other parent.

How do parents typically divide Christmas?

One parent usually has the child from noon on Christmas Eve to noon on Christmas Day, and the other parent gets the child from noon on Christmas Day to noon the following day.

What if one parent is Christian and the other parent is Jewish?

That may make dividing the holidays easier: The Christian parent can take the Christian holidays, the Jewish parent can take the Jewish ones, and the divide whatever holidays they both celebrate.

What if one of the parents lives long distance?

The parties should reach agreements on how travel will be arranged and how travel costs will be divided.

What if one of the parents is concerned the other parent won’t take COVID seriously during the holidays or that their family members are not vaccinated?

COVID protocols and vaccinations are certainly something that should be discussed and hopefully agreed upon, but the Arizona Supreme Court has been clear that, regardless of what is done of that front, the normal Parenting Plan remains in effect and must be followed.

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