It’s back-to-school time, which means that retail stores are stocking fall, Halloween, and winter holiday decorations. The collective groan can be heard across the country as you walk by the back-to-school supplies and see Christmas decorations starting to hit the shelves of your local box store. Although it may feel too early to enjoy the fake snow and winter decorations in the Christmas aisle, it’s not too early to be thinking about your fall and winter holiday parenting schedule.

Judges love to tell frazzled last-minute litigants, who file emergency pleadings to establish a holiday schedule, that Christmas happens on the same day every year and that holiday parenting schedules will never be an emergency. The court process can be notoriously slow. So time is of the essence to get your pleading on file in order to secure a court order setting forth your holiday or winter vacation parenting time with your children. 

Here are some important things to consider when negotiating your holiday parenting schedule:

Holidays vs. Vacations

A holiday or vacation schedule is parenting time that takes priority over a regular parenting time schedule. Holidays that are designated to a parent will generally take priority over another parent’s desire to schedule a vacation. 

For example, if you always have Thursdays with the children, but the other parent has been given Thanksgiving day in even years, then this year the children will be with the other parent on Thursday instead of you. You probably will not have the option to take a vacation on Thanksgiving because the other parent’s designation of having Thanksgiving that year will take priority over your desire to take a vacation during that school break.

Vacation schedules generally take place when the children are on break from school. The major school breaks for most children are summer break, winter break, and spring break. Vacation can look different to different parents based on culture and tradition, location of extended family, age of the children, and various other factors. The days can be broken up into long weekends, single week, or multi-week vacation segments. 

Holidays that are often alternated or specified in a vacation and holiday parenting plan include the major federal and non-federal holidays, religious holidays, and teacher in-service days. 

Plan Ahead

If you don’t have a court case already started, it is important to get things filed sooner rather than later. There are many steps that have to be taken before your attorney will get to have your pleading heard by a judge. First, your attorney will need to draft any relevant pleadings and file your case. Then, the other parent will be served the paperwork and have time to file their appearance to participate in the case. The other parent will have time to respond to your pleading. And you will likely be required to attend mediation before the judge sets the matter for a hearing. 

If you already have a judgment for parenting time, there are different hoops that must be jumped through before your pleading will be heard by the judge. This may include mediation, negotiations with attorneys, or going to a parenting coordinator, depending on the specific terms in your allocation of parental responsibilities judgment or custody judgment.

When you are thinking through your desired holiday parenting plan, think through how it will be for the children who are experiencing it. If your children would not enjoy hopping from house to house for two Thanksgiving dinners, then don’t put that burden on them by insisting on splitting the actual day. 

Give the Children Permission to Love Each Parent and Enjoy the Holiday

We often alternate which parent gets to celebrate a holiday. Sometimes we designate certain holidays for each parent that don’t alternate. However your holiday schedule gets worked out, remember that the holiday is just a day, but the spirit of the holiday can be celebrated on more than one day. If the children are not with you on a specific holiday, you can still celebrate with your children when they are with you. If it is a gift-giving holiday, remember that children love receiving love and gifts regardless of the actual day, even if it is just a simple gift of acknowledgment. 

If the children spend the holiday with you, carve out quiet time for them to speak with the other parent on the phone or on FaceTime. If it is not your holiday, do not monopolize the children’s time by keeping them on the phone. Children should be able to enjoy their time with each parent while also feeling the love and support of the other parent. 

Creating a holiday and vacation parenting time schedule doesn’t have to be hard. With the right attorney, you can negotiate a holiday and vacation parenting time schedule that fits your family’s needs. 

If you have questions about creating a holiday and vacation parenting time schedule, call Greenberg & Sinkovits at (312) 905-3013 for a free consultation. Our attorneys are ready to help you create loving memories with your children for years to come.