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Massachusetts Divorce Law Monitor What you never thought you'd need to know about divorce

Holiday Parenting Schedules

Posted in Alimony and Child Custody

Hi there,

After the elections comes the holiday season.  This time of year is particularly tough for folks who have never gone through the holidays except as an intact family.  It is also a tough time for divorce lawyers and family courts, as lots of families are unable to settle holiday scheduling differences without recourse to the courts.                         

This year Thanksgiving is on November 22.  Hanukkah begins on December 8 and Christmas falls on a Tuesday.

If you don’t have a holiday parenting schedule already set either by agreement or judgment, you need to immediately contact your lawyer — or your soon to be ex, if you don’t have a lawyer — to see if you can agree on what will happen.  With the time-frames for setting motion dates and the court scheduling problems that may arise, this needs to be tackled NOW.

There are a number of ways to share the holidays.  Some families alternate them every year with each parent having either Thanksgiving or Christmas each year.  Thanksgiving can be split on the day itself or alternated just the day or the 4 day weekend if you have one.  Hanukkah is MUCH easier as you can alternate the first and second nights or the first and last nights or many variations in between.  Christmas is the most difficult, as it is fraught with the emotional expectations going back to the parents’ childhood. 

If you have school age kids, there is also a need to discuss how to divide winter vacation time.  Some families, particularly with young children, want the kids to be in their primary residence for Santa to come.  This is naturally tough on the other parent.  It can be compromised by time on Christmas Eve, and a transfer on the afternoon of Christmas day itself.  The vacation can be divided, or swapped annually with the parent who hasn’t had the “good part” of Christmas getting New Years and/or the majority of the vacation time.  The choices are pretty broad, but you should try to put the kids first.  Remember that however tough it is for you, it is just as tough or tougher for them.

Also be sure to try to talk to the other parent and both sets of grandparents (if you have them) to be sure you are on the same page as to gifts.  Now is a good time to to decide if the favorite gift goes back and forth between households or stays in the home of the giver.

Best,

Nancy