Christmas Day Cornucopia!
Now that the hard part is behind us, we move to the regular holiday schedule.
Monday and Friday Holidays
Most courts will set up a holiday schedule that tacks on the Monday or Friday holiday to whatever parent has the weekend. For example, Labor Day falls on a Monday, so if dad has the weekend under the normal schedule, then his visitation will be extended from Sunday evening until Monday evening. The other big Monday/Friday holiday for most parents is Labor Day, President’s Day, and MLK Day. These holidays typically follow the same schedule and, as a general rule, will cause each parent to have the holiday every other year. If it is big concern, you can each alternate these Monday/Friday holidays on an even/odd schedule, but this can create a situation where someone has the weekend and then the other parent has the one day holiday. As such, this is not the most ideal arrangement.
Fourth of July
Fourth of July is one of those holidays that simply needs to be split with one parent having even years and the other parent having odd years. Fourth of July should be defined as a 24 hour period commencing the morning of the 4th and continuing until the morning of the 5th.
I encourage parents not to be too concerned with their Children’s Birthdays. Babies and toddlers don’t know its their birthday, adolescents are happy to have two or three birthday celebrations, and older children want to spend their birthday with friends and not their annoying parents. Birthday days also change every year so chances are you will have custodial time, even if its just dinner, on your child’s birthday regularly. If you are doing a party, these area typically on the weekend and each parent can do the party on their respective weekends which frames the birthday. Who doesn’t love two parties anyway.
Thanksgiving and Christmas
These are usually tied together with the concept that whoever has Thanksgiving, the other parent gets the better part of Christmas.
Schools that have week long Thanksgiving Break leave the perfect opportunity to split the week with one parent having the first half (Friday to Wednesday), and the other parent having the second half (Wednesday to Sunday.)
If the school gets off on Wednesday then you alternate each year with Thanksgiving either Wednesday to Friday or Wednesday to Sunday. If you typically go away for Thanksgiving, the take the holiday throguh until Sunday to reduce stress. If no one goes away, then take the holiday through Friday and that way, the normal weekend schedules don’t get messed up. (More on this later).
Christmas break is usually split in half with one parent have the first half in even years and the second half in odd years. This used to be easier when school had a week before Christmas and a week afterward. However, this has become more complicated with the advent of schools getting out only days before Christmas. So one parent may have a week that is interrupted by the Christmas holiday, but chances are, this situation will be reversed for the other parent the next year.
Christmas itself is usually split into two 24 hour periods. Noon on the 24th until noon on the 25th and then noon on the 25th until noon on the 26th. Again this alternates each year so that one parent has the first period every other year. On a personal note, I always recommend that parents have these 24 hour periods fall as late as possible. It is always sad to me when a child opens all their presents on Christmas morning and has to rush out of the house for the exchange. Have the time period go to three or four on Christmas morning to give the child more time.
Again it depends on your families traditions. My family has Christmas Dinner at 5 pm and as such a late Christmas day is appropriate. Other families have a brunch or late lunch, in which case a noon exchange may be best solution.
Then of course there are those perfect situations where one parent’s family always has a large Christmas Eve celebration and the other always has a large Christmas Day celebration. If this is your circumstance, then you are on of the lucky ones.
New Years Eve and Day
Some parents want to alternate this holiday as well. I have never truly understood this. I personally have not been out on New Years Eve in 10 years and quite frankly would like to enjoy this holiday without children. But if you are so inclined, then you simply need to split this holiday into two 24 hour periods once again. The thing to contemplate with splitting New Years, is that no one will ever have an uninterrupted week with the children to go away, and it may be nice for at least one parent a year to have this opportunity, whether or not you elect to take advantage of it.
Two week spring breaks should be split in half. One week Spring Breaks can be split in half or alternated on an even odd schedule. It depends on your traditions. If you go away for the break, then a full week on alternating years is going to make more sense. If you have to work and typically are unable to get away, then splitting the one week break on Wednesday may make the most sense.
I have had people claim that they wanted all of Hanukkah or the entire week between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, but lets be honest, this is unrealistic except for the most religious of Jews (and we all know that Hanukkah is a minor holiday). If these are important holidays to you, then they should be alternated as well.
In mixed faith households, I regularly hear that one parent never liked Christmas or railed against its consumer culture only to find at separation/divorce that that parent is suddenly demanding Christmas. Again, Christmas has transcended religion for most and has become a secular holiday. Further, if the children are getting presents for one parent, the other parent is not going to want to be left holding the bag, so do expect that your Jewish ex who joked about the Hanukkah bush, is suddenly going to want to share in this Christian holiday; and quite frankly the court’s will oblige.
There are many other minor holidays that come throughout the year. Avoid the temptation to complicate the schedule any further with these and stick to the major ones. You could fill every weekend if you wanted to, but don’t do it.
The big complication comes with what happens to the alternating weekends after a holiday. The short holidays, it has no effect. The major issue is Christmas, Spring Break and Thanksgiving (if you elect to go through Sunday). The good news is that whatever method you choose, it will equally burden each of you. The idea of alternating weekends is to ensure that each parent has regular contact with the child. Under this analysis, it is better to have the weekends reset. If I have visitation over the last weekend of Winter Break, then I should not have the next weekend even if it would normally be mine for the sake of the child. There is also a practical matter. If I want to go camping on the weekend in May, and I am planning it six months before, it is easier to count weekends starting at Spring Break (when I know I have the last weekend), then it is to count weekends all the way from October the year before.