Holidays are often an important time for families to spend time together, have fun, and reconnect. A single day off from school may allow for some quiet time at home with a parent or a day trip to the zoo or amusement park. A weekend holiday or longer breaks from school, such as Christmas/Winter Break may allow for a family vacation. Holidays may become even more important when families separate and parents may not get to see their children on every holiday, every year.
Parents may consider including a holiday schedule in the parenting plan so that children get to spend time with both parents on special days throughout the year. Of course, parents may also agree to not have a holiday schedule at all and simply receive holiday time only if and when a holiday happens to land on their day during the regular custodial schedule.
Sharing the Holidays
Some holidays are equally important to both parents, whereas other holidays may be more important to one parent than the other. Custody orders typically award the holidays to parents on an odd/even year alternating basis. For example, Mother has the children on Halloween every odd-numbered year, and Father has the children on Halloween every even-numbered year. On the other hand, some holidays are awarded to one parent every single year, such as Mother would receive Mother’s Day every year and Father would receive Father’s Day every year. If a particular holiday is not important to a parent, the parent may agree that the other parent receive that holiday every year and in exchange the parent giving up that holiday may receive a different holiday every year.
There are certain times during the school year when the children are off school for longer periods of time, such as Spring Break or Christmas/Winter Break. With these longer holidays, there is plenty of time to allow each parent at least a week of vacation time with the children.
For example, Winter Break in Ventura County schools varies from 2 weeks to 3 weeks and generally includes Christmas and New Year’s. An example split of Winter Break could be that in odd-numbered years, Mother has the children for the first half of Winter Break and Father has the children for the second half of Winter Break. In even-numbered years, Father has the children for the first half of Winter Break and Mother has the children for the second half of Winter Break. Christmas and New Year’s are often pulled out separately of the Winter Break and split between the parents for the eve and the day on an odd/even year basis.
The holiday schedule should specify with detail the start and end time for each holiday. For example, Mother receives the children for Mother’s Day every year from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, and Father receives the children for Father’s Day every year from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Sunday.
3-Day Weekend Holidays
Some holidays always fall on a Monday. This would be an opportunity for the custodial parent to extend the weekend to enjoy more time with the children and perhaps take a short trip. Instead of awarding Monday holidays to parents on an odd/even year basis, another option to consider is to award the Monday holiday to the parent who happens to have custody of the children that adjacent weekend to allow parents to take advantage of a longer weekend. For example, if it is Father’s custodial weekend and he has the children from Friday after school until Monday return to school, and Monday happens to be Labor Day, then Father may extend his custodial weekend without interruption through Tuesday return to school. With this option, the “chips fall where they fall” and it may be the case in any given year that one parent may end up with more 3-day weekends than the other. Parents who are interested in this option, but are concerned about having the same amount of 3-day weekends as the other parent, might want to chart out the Monday holidays with a calendar for years ahead.
Holidays Supersede the Regular Custodial Schedule
The holiday schedule usually supersedes the regular custodial schedule. This means holidays take precedence. If Mother normally has the children on Mondays and Tuesdays, but this year Tuesday happens to be Independence Day and July 4th is Father’s holiday this year, then Father will have custody of the children on Tuesday for Independence Day. Mother does not receive a make-up day for her Tuesday due to Father’s July 4th holiday taking precedence. After Father has the children for the July 4th holiday, then the regular custodial schedule resumes. If Father’s regular days are Wednesdays and Thursdays, then Father would have the children the day after Independence Day as well.
Common Holidays to Consider
New Year’s Eve (December 31st)
New Year’s Day (January 1st)
Martin Luther King’s Birthday (3rd Monday of January)
Lincoln’s Birthday (February 12th)
Washington’s Birthday/President’s Day (3rd Monday of February)
Easter Sunday (usually falls within Spring Break)
Spring Break (usually 1 or 2 weeks in March or April)
Mother’s Day (2nd Sunday of May)
Memorial Day (last Monday of May)
Father’s Day (3rd Sunday of June)
Independence Day (July 4th)
Labor Day (1st Monday of September)
Fall Break (some schools in Ventura County have 1 week off in October)
Halloween (October 31st)
Veterans Day (November 11th)
Thanksgiving Day (4th Thursday of November)
Thanksgiving Holiday (includes Friday; some schools take off the entire week)
Christmas Eve (December 24th)
Christmas Day (December 25th)
Winter Break (usually 2 or 3 weeks; includes Christmas and New Year’s)
Lunar New Year
Holidays important to your culture
Other Special Days
Child’s Adoption Day
The birthday of a special person in child’s life (e.g., grandparent)
Special occasions (e.g., weddings of family or close friends)
Children are sometimes off from school for “Non-school Days” or “Teacher In-service Days.” Parents might consider also including these days off from school in the holiday schedule.
Summer vacations will be discussed in another blog post.
Do you need help with your child custody order? Ventura divorce lawyer Christine Nguyen Thomas can help. Call the office at (805) 351-8866 for a consultation.