Holidays and Child Custody
Most families can come to an agreement on sharing holidays and other special occasions with their children. However, conflicts can occur when families are still in the process of getting divorced or separated. Conflicts can also arise when visitation needs change as well as other family dynamics such as remarriage or relocation of one parent.
How Custody is Arranged
In the state of California, mediation is mandatory in child custody and parenting time cases before the hearing. The purpose of mediation is to help the parents develop a parenting plan. A parenting plan, also called a “custody and visitation agreement,” is the parent’s written agreement about:
- Time-share: A schedule that outlines how much time each parent will spend with their children during specific holidays.
- Decision-making: Who will make decisions about the health, education and welfare of the children.
A written plan will let you and your children know what to expect on major holidays. It can also reduce conflicts over shared parenting time. Once signed by the judge and filed with the court, your parenting plan becomes part of the court order. A written plan allows parents to focus on raising their kids versus fighting over holiday visits.
Creating a Family Plan
When thinking about a holiday parenting plan, you should consider your child’s basic needs including love, protection, and guidance. Regardless of family traditions or religion, the key is to adjust your plan to your children, not the other way around. It also important to consider your children’s ages, personalities, experiences and abilities.
Generally, it is best to maintain regular, consistent times with each parent for vacations and holidays. Give your plan enough detail so it is easy to understand and enforce, while giving your children a sense of security.
Parents also need to be flexible. How you talk to each other and your children can make a big difference. Try to think about the other parent as a business partner to help get your mind off the pain and stress so you can focus on your children. Many factors can affect even the most perfect family plan. For example, your child can become sick from holiday overeating while visiting the other parent. The age of the child and the seriousness of the illness need to be considered. The child may not be able to come back home as planned.
Your family law attorney can help you plan appropriate holiday visitation. There are also other forms your attorney can help you fill out that talk about plans that include weekdays, weekends, vacations, cost of transportation for visitation and restrictions on traveling or moving with the children.
Understanding your rights as well as your responsibilities can help you make the best choices for your children, regardless of the feelings you may have for the other parent. The holidays should be a time of joy and relaxation for families in accord with the best interest of the children.