The holidays are almost upon us and plans are starting to form. There are a variety of issues parents can run into when planning for timesharing during the holidays. Who gets timesharing with the children on Thanksgiving? How do we split the Christmas break? What do I do if the other parent wants to change the schedule? What do we do if we don’t have a schedule in place already? Here are some tips to fix your co-parenting and timesharing issues quickly:
- Get it in writing. Whichever of these options you and the other parent decide on, make sure there is an email, a text message, or even a cocktail napkin with initials that outlines what you and the other parent agreed to. Once you decided on an agreement with the other party, send them a quick text or email and ask them to confirm it in writing. The detailed message plus a “confirmed” should be sufficient to address any later problems.
- You need to resolve it between the parents. This tip address two common issues: outside parties and time. Issues related to co-parenting should be dealt with by the child/children’s parents. To resolve the situation quickly, avoid getting girlfriends, mothers-in-law, brothers, pastors, or any other third party involved in the situation. Many times these third parties will only agitate the parent you are trying to resolve the issue with. Avoid getting others involved and keep the co-parenting between the actual parents.This tip also addresses time. To resolve holiday timesharing issues quickly, you need to keep it between the parents. Not only does including third parties agitate the situation, it also takes additional time to talk to the third party, who then gets back to the parent, who then responds to you and….it just takes too long. Keeping it between the two parents is the fastest way to go.
- Avoid the notion of “going before the Judge”. The reality of your situation is, absent a true emergency, you are going to be hard-pressed to find time on a judge’s calendar before the holidays. A true emergency is when the children are in danger of being taken out of the country, or their health or safety is in immediate danger. An emergency does not include you not wanting your children to go to a home where the Thanksgiving turkey will be cooked in a fryer because you think fryers are dangerous. An emergency does not include you not wanting your children to go to a Christmas dinner with Aunt Cathy because she drinks a lot.Judge’s calendar are difficult during the holiday season. Between courts being closed for holidays, many judges, judicial assistants, and attorneys take vacation during this time. This makes it even more difficult to find time on calendars to go before a judge. In addition to coordinating with the judge and your attorney, judge’s calendars are also filled with items that have been on the judge’s schedules for months, including regular hearings and trials. If you have the idea that a judge will decide your situation for you, it may not be until after the holidays, and by then the issue will be nonexistent. Tip #1 will be a faster option.
- Options on how to split holidays: If you are in a position where you and the other parent can discuss holiday timesharing and co-parenting, but do not know where to start, here are four options on how you can split the holidays:
- Alternate every year. In this option, one parent would have Thanksgiving every year and one parent has Christmas every year. Parent A has the entire Thanksgiving Break and would then have the second half of the Winter Break (no Christmas). Parent B would have the first half of the Winter Break (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).
- Split the holidays down the middle. In this option, the parents split each holiday break. You can also choose whether to rotate these schedules each year or stick to them every year. In rotating, one parent will have Thanksgiving in odd years and Christmas in even years. The other parent will have Thanksgiving in even years and Christmas in odd years.
- Parent A has the first half of Thanksgiving Break from the Friday school ends through Wednesday. Parent B has the second half of Thanksgiving Break from Wednesday until the Sunday before school starts. It is also important to consider what time on Wednesday you will exchange the child(ren). This is an important detail that is often overlooked. Pick a specific time (for example 12noon). Avoid saying “morning” or “afternoon” as people often differ about what that time really means.
- For Winter Break, Parent A has the first half of Winter Break from the Friday school ends through the following Sunday (10 days). Parent B has the second half of Winter Break from that Sunday until the Sunday before school starts. Make sure to also choose what time on Sunday the exchange of the child(ren) will take place.
- Follow your regular schedule. Many parents don’t consider this option. The reality is, while children have a lot of time off, parents do not. If sticking with your regular schedule of timesharing works, you can agree to keep it at that. Remember to also take into consideration what childcare you may need to consider if schools are closed and parents work.
- Modify days throughout. Be realistic to what your child(ren) need and what you can do. You and the other parent can agree to any modification of options (a), (b), or (c) above. If you have a good co-parenting relationship, it may just require some discussion as to days that will work for everyone. Maybe you keep the regular schedule but one parent gets Christmas Eve and the other parent gets Christmas Day. Maybe one parent loves Thanksgiving, but is willing to forego the rest of the break to always have Thanksgiving. Remember, if you and the other parent agree to it, it will be the best and the courts will rarely intervene.
How “breaks” are defined:
Thanksgiving Break – Courts traditionally consider Thanksgiving Break a 10 day holiday, beginning on the Friday when school ends, through the week the child(ren) are out of school, until the Sunday before school starts.
Winter Break – Courts traditionally consider Winter Break a 2 week+ day holiday, beginning on the Friday when school ends, through the two weeks the child(ren) are out of school, until the Sunday before school starts.
Christmas – The Christmas Holiday is included in Winter Break definitions.