As the holidays approach, many parents in the process of divorce may be concerned about how a time of year centered on family will be handled now that the family is changing. While it is natural to want to have your children with you for every holiday every year, it is important for children to get to spend holiday time with each of their parents when their parents are no longer together.

The parenting plan that you will prepare with your divorce attorney will have a parenting time schedule, which will include a specific schedule for all major holidays. It is typical for parents to alternate holidays, with one parent receiving a particular holiday in even-numbered years, and the other parent receiving the same holiday in odd-numbered years. Some holidays, however, can be split to allow each parent to have substantive time on or near the holiday. For instance, parents may agree to split Thanksgiving weekend in half, with one parent having from when school gets out until 3:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving, and the other parent having the rest of the extended weekend. The parties would rotate which parent gets which half of the holiday time. Some parents also choose to celebrate certain holidays together, such as committing to have a joint birthday party for a child each year even after the divorce.

Because parenting plans are highly customizable, it is important to work closely with your attorney on what holiday schedule works best for your family. In addition to the typical school breaks, the schedule can include whatever holidays are important to you and your family, including whatever religious or cultural holidays you observe. You can also take into account how you have traditionally celebrated holidays in the past. For instance, if you have always celebrated Christmas Eve with the husband’s extended family and Christmas Day with the wife’s extended family, a reasonable proposal would be to continue that arrangement with Father having the children each Christmas Eve to celebrate his family’s tradition, and with Mother having the children each Christmas Day to celebrate her family’s tradition.

Holidays are some of the most important times we have with family and friends, but they can also result in undue stress if not planned well. Calm and open communication with your co-parent paired with a well-structured holiday parenting plan is the best way to ensure that the children get to spend meaningful holiday time with both parents.

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