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Holiday Visitation After Divorce

Dividing children’s holidays after divorce is not easy. However, the investment you make in a practical, fair schedule with your “ex” will pay off in peace of mind for your children and for you. It may also save you additional legal costs in the future.

Negotiating the Terms of the Children’s Holiday Schedule

Your lawyer probably has several standard plans dividing children’s holidays. Ask to see those plans so you can decide if one works for you. If you see one you like, feel free to modify it to meet your needs.

Keep the children’s school schedules in mind. Go to the school websites and look at the school calendars. Make sure you know when school ends and when it starts again. In most cases, the school calendars will determine what time is available for parents to share.

Be flexible but goal oriented. Getting to a single agreement requires give and take. For example, if your “ex”’s family has a big meal and opens gifts on Christmas Eve, consider giving up Christmas Eve in exchange for Christmas Day. A good agreement also requires planning for unexpected “non-holiday” events like baptisms, funerals, and weddings. Think about how to incorporate the unexpected into your plan.

If you want to take the children on a summer holiday trip, don’t forget to consider previously scheduled summer camp activities. Summer camps cost money. If your children attend one, consider taking your summer holiday trip before camp starts or after it ends.

Make sure you are “okay” with any plans to take your children out of state or out of the country during holidays. Insist in your agreement that your “ex” get your advance consent to such trips and provide you with detailed information about itineraries.

Don’t schedule extra-curricular activities over the children’s holidays. Children benefit from band and dance classes and from playing soccer or baseball or other team sports. But those activities should not interfere with the other parent’s right to enjoy a shared holiday in the way he or she sees fit. Address these types of potential conflicts in your holiday plan.

If your children must travel to be with the other parent over a holiday, your agreement should answer these questions:

  • Who pays for the ticket/s?
  • Who makes the travel arrangements?
  • For young children, who will accompany them on their trip?
  • Who will pick the children up at the airport?

Some holidays occur during the summer:

  • The Fourth of July.
  • Memorial Day.

If you are dividing the school summer break, think about whether you want to share them.

Remember there are days that are not, strictly speaking, “holidays” that you may want to divide. If these days are important to you, include them in your discussions:

  • The children’s birthdays.
  • Mother/Father’s Day.
  • Valentine’s Day.
  • Grandparents’ anniversaries.
  • Family reunions.

Once you have a plan you like, have someone else in your family read it. A second pair of eyes is a good way to pick up issues that you missed.

Finally, ask your lawyer whether the amount of time you will spend with your children over the children’s holidays may affect your child support obligation. Some plans adjust child support if the children will be with one parent during an extended period of time such as the summer school holidays.

No plan is perfect. As hard as you try, you will find that you forgot some detail that you wish you had remembered. With a good faith effort on the part of both parents, however, the children’s holidays after divorce can be relatively stress free.

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