Fall is here, marking the onset of the holiday season. The holidays, while filled with joy, can also bring their share of parenting agreement challenges. While many parenting agreements try to address and prevent issues related to visitation during the holidays, unexpected situations still arise and parents might want to change the agreement or modify the schedule to accommodate their plans. As a result, existing parenting agreements may require modification or adjustment. Here are some frequently asked questions about holiday parenting to help you navigate this festive but potentially complex time of year.

Are holidays and vacations treated the same in parenting agreements?

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. 

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.

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. 

How far ahead of the holiday do I need to file something in court?

The sooner the better. If you don’t have a court case started, there will be a lag time for getting your case up and running. If you already have a judgment for parenting time, you may be required to attend mediation or go to a parenting coordinator, depending on the specific terms in your allocation of parental responsibilities judgment or custody judgment.

Emergency filings in court require unforeseen circumstances. 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 are not 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. 

I am having a hard time communicating with my ex about holiday parenting time. What should I do?

Dr. Donald Gordon, the Executive  Director of The Center for Divorce Education, recommends that when you find yourself getting upset with your co-parent or children, use the Stop-Look-Listen method. Stop yourself from reacting with anger by taking deep breaths, and make yourself aware of your feelings. Look at all your options before responding and choose which will best prevent conflict from escalating. Listen to your better nature and choose the response that shows understanding, wisdom, and kindness. For more on this method and other exercises, see online.divorce-education.com

Holiday Parenting FAQs – Bonus Question…

Is it OK for me to require my kid to keep the presents I give them at my house?

This answer varies by situation. We like to encourage allowing your child to take their gifts back and forth between households. It is their present, for their use and enjoyment. However, we sometimes hear complaints about what happens when a child takes something to the other parent’s house. If it is not reasonable to allow the child to take their gifts to/from each parent’s house, be sure that you are not assigning any negative reasoning about that decision to the other parent when discussing it with your child. Children should not be put in the middle of adult conflict.

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.