Once a divorce has been finalized and a parenting schedule has been implemented, parents and children alike start to adjust to the “new normal” as the children go back and forth to spend time with each parent. But then, the holidays approach, and suddenly your once routine schedule can seem anything but routine.
The “standard” order
Each domestic relations court in Ohio must establish a “standard” order of parenting time. A standard order for parenting time includes a parenting schedule during the school year, in the summer, and during holidays, and often includes additional provisions such as telephone contact with the kids, transportation, vacations, and many other items that need to be addressed in a court order for custody or shared parenting. Standard orders of parenting time can vary greatly from county to county. Of course, your order may look different depending on your situation, but for general purposes, this is a default order the courts rely on. If an item is not specifically addressed in an order for custody or shared parenting, the court will apply the terms of their standard order with respect to that specific provision.
These orders will also include finer details, such as the definition of the weekend. Does it start Friday at 6pm or Saturday morning? Does it end Sunday night, or after the kids get on the bus Monday morning? Days of the week and times of day will be specific to prevent any confusion or arguments. But what happens if it is Parent A’s weekend to have the children, but it’s also Christmas weekend, and it is Parent B’s turn to have the kids for Christmas?
Holiday time takes priority
Your parenting order should have included a specific holiday schedule. A typical schedule might split the holidays between the parents and switch the holidays every year. For example, in even years, the non-residential parent might have the children on specific holidays like President’s Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Day. The next year the schedule would switch, and the custodial parent would have the children on those holidays. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day usually aren’t included in the alternating years, as those holidays are almost always spent with the corresponding parent.
Your traditions matter
Just because a typical schedule might alternate the holidays every other year, it doesn’t mean your schedule needs to look like that. If you had specific traditions with your own family that you want to continue, like an extended family gathering on Christmas Eve, it might be more important to you that you have the kids on Christmas Eve every year and let the other parent have them every Christmas day.
You and your ex might also celebrate different holidays which are more important to you than those in a “standard” order. From Hannukah to Kwanzaa to Diwali, there are many other holidays that are celebrated this time of the year besides Thanksgiving and Christmas. The holiday schedule in your parenting order may be able to be customized to ensure that each parent has the children on those occasions that have special meaning to them, especially if the other parent doesn’t celebrate those days.
Plan ahead for the best results
Since the holiday schedule takes precedence over the standard order, it’s time to start looking at the calendar and planning ahead. You may need to make different arrangements to ensure you receive your allotted time with the children during this busy season. If, for example, your one night a week with the kids is on Thursday, but it’s not your year to have the kids on Thanksgiving, can you have the kids the night before instead? This is always something that can be agreed upon between the parties but if cooperation between the parties is an issue, it needs to be included in the court orders.
Also, consider the logistics. Where will you be celebrating? How far away does the other parent live? If the other parent is out of state, it might be much harder to be flexible. Splitting Christmas Eve and Christmas Day may not be possible unless you want to put the children on a plane Christmas morning.
Remember the reason for the season
It may be trite, but it’s true. Don’t lose sight of the fact that the holidays are a chance for your children to spend time with their extended family…on both sides. If there is a big holiday event happening in the other parent’s family, and the children want to attend but are scheduled to be with you, can you be flexible enough to accommodate their request? Try to keep the lines of communication with the other parent open this time of year, and work together to ensure the children enjoy the holidays and neither parent feels slighted. Having the right attitude can make all the difference…. just ask Ricky Bobby’s boys in Talladega Nights:
Free legal consultations are always available
Don’t let the stress of the holidays get to you. If you have questions about your parenting time, or if your situation has changed and the visitation order isn’t working for you anymore, call us for a free consultation. Our experienced family lawyers have more than 100+ years of combined experience, and in that time, we have seen hundreds of different parenting orders. We can help you create a plan that works for you and your family, so that you all have the happiest of holidays!