Co-parenting during the holidays presents some of the most challenging times of the year for families where the parents have divorced, are in the process of divorce or have separated. For the most part, the Allocation Judgment (formerly called a Parenting Agreement or Custody Judgment) should try to anticipate some of the parenting time issues which could arise surrounding the holiday season. However, no one can predict every single issue which will occur, and so often, the holiday parenting time schedule will need to be modified or adjusted.

Top Issues for Co-parenting During the Holidays

The top co-parenting issues that arise during the holiday season involve the Winter Break for students and last-minute change requests that occur as parents juggle holiday parties, special events, and travel.

Winter Break Challenges

Winter Break can often be an issue because it falls around Christmas and New Year’s Eve — New Years Day in most districts, and it is almost always at least two (2) weeks long. Usually, the holidays themselves are allocated in some way to the parents, and then the Winter Break from school is also allocated, with the Christmas and New Year’s Holiday taking precedence.

For example, in 2020, most schools will have Winter Break after school on Friday, December 18, 2020, to Sunday, January 3, 2021, with school resuming on January 4, 2021. The parenting agreement may say that each parent will have one week of winter break and that Mom has Christmas and Dad has New Year’s Day. That time frame is longer than two (2) weeks, and let’s say one parent is planning a trip during their “week” of the break. Although the Allocation Judgment indicates that everyone gets one week and who gets which holiday, all of the ‘extra’ time and schedule of everyone’s “week” (or more) of Winter Break needs to be sorted out.

In some cases, the parties will have a parenting coordinator or a mediator who they can work with to try and sort of the scheduling issues. If you don’t, it is best to try and be cooperative and negotiate in a way that is fair. Maybe one person receives a disproportionate amount of time over Winter Break in 2020, but the other parent will receive a disproportionate amount of time in 2021 over Winter Break to make up for it. Judges try to be fair, and that means they will try to treat everyone equally. Usually, they take a commonsense approach to these sorts of issues, and it is something the parties could have come up with on their own if only they’d cooperate.

Last-Minute Change Requests

Another issue that often arises during the holidays for divorced or separated families is a last-minute change request. For example, perhaps a grandparent is coming in the last minute for Thanksgiving for a couple of days, but it is the other parent’s year for Thanksgiving Break. While no one will expect a parent to give up their Thanksgiving Holiday to the other parent simply because they have a relative in town who wants to see the minor children, a Court would likely try to allocate some time over Thanksgiving Break for the children to see their grandparent. Perhaps it is dinner or a special lunch. The only exception would be if there is pre-planned travel. When it comes to last-minute requests or changes, common sense and courtesy is “money in the bank” for you to use later with your ex, or sometimes even in Court. Plus, it is good for your children to see that their parents work together and show flexibility and cooperation.

Holiday parenting time, along with school break and vacation parenting time can often be the hardest parenting time schedules to sort out. However, it is always best to try and be cooperative and work out an arrangement that benefits everyone, including the children, instead of running into Court and spending time and money.

If you find challenges with co-parenting during the holidays and believe it is time to modify your Allocation Judgment, contact Anderson & Boback to speak to our experienced family law attorney.


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