For many divorced parents, dividing the holidays is difficult. This task means splitting up a time of the year that is typically associated with shared families, and this emotionally charged action can be especially difficult on the children. With the divorce process, family law courts often make determinations for the parents, but what the courts say does not necessarily have to be the be-all-end-all when it comes to dividing custody for the holidays. While it may be difficult for both parents and children to spend time apart on Christmas, there are ways to navigate this process in healthy ways. Our child custody attorney in Huntsville can help you come up with a parenting plan for the holidays.
Court based options for splitting custody during the holidays
Alabama courts have created a schedule for joint physical custody during Christmas time. This division of custody begins with the Christmas break from school, with the clause stating that in even numbered years fathers will have the child(ren) from 9 AM on the day after the last day of school before the break until 6 PM on December 25th. Then on odd numbered years, the father will have custody from 6 PM on December 25th until 6 PM the day before school resumes from the holiday break. The mother’s custody will similarly alternate between odd and even numbered years, for the beginning and end of the school break, respectively. In both cases, these plans are binding in all situations, despite conflicts with other provisions.
Figuring out your schedule in advance
If your holiday schedule is largely locked in place, make a strategy with your co-parent to confirm both of your details, down to the hour. If the family court decision doesn’t work for you, alternate forms of mediation can offer remedies. You should both recognize that holiday visitation can be more flexible than regular visitation, and should be open to setting different schedules. This way there will be no disagreements.
If you do not have a set schedule for your holiday plans, you should work together with your co-parent to schedule separate family events that work around all of your schedules. Consider that your children may also expect to spend time with other immediate and extended family members, so be flexible with the time that you allot.
Shared custody for the purpose of opening presents
Both parents can abide by the alternating schedule of odd and even years, but while custody is split around most of the days surrounding Christmas, the parent who does not have the children during Christmas Day is invited to share in the activity of opening presents.
Options to travel, but equal time otherwise
While keeping to the odd and even year scheduling system, both parents agree that the other can travel with the children out of state. They should set specific times for travel so that it does not interfere with the equal division of custody. Notification of travel plans should come no later than December 1st in most cases in order to give the other parent time to file any family law pleadings to prevent it if necessary.
Set expectations with your children
While coordination with your co-parent is important to making things run smoothly, it is equally important to spend time with your children to sort out the plan and make them understand and feel comfortable with the schedule that both parents have worked out. This way your child can avoid feeling sad or confused by the plan you have adopted.
Regardless of your scheduling plans, work with your co-parent to work out what gifts you both will be getting the children. You should both want to avoid being in a situation where one parent buys more luxuriant gifts than the other, or one ends up purchasing the higher end gifts on the children’s gift list. If it is doable, you can both chip in on what you consider the best gift. This level of cooperation can go a long way in ensuring that your children can have a wonderful Christmas.
Help your children shop for presents for your co-parent
If you both know how you will be splitting custody, this activity can go a long way towards producing joy and goodwill in your family unit. Even if you do not necessarily get along with your co-parent, this simple act can teach your children an important lesson in grace and kindness. Between court mandates and cooperative planning, there are ways to reasonably divide time with your children during Christmas, both for the holiday itself and for the activities surrounding it.
Attorney Steven A. Harris regularly blogs in the areas of family law, bankruptcy, and real estate closings on this website. He is always available in any of the firm’s offices or by phone anytime for a consultation. Mr. Harris tries to provide informative information to the public in easily digestible formats. Hopefully you enjoyed this article and feel free to supply any feedback. We appreciate our readers and love to hear from you!