Sharing Custody of Minor Children: Common Holiday Visitation Schedules

The holiday season is upon us and one of the most frequently asked questions received by family law attorneys from clients considering or going through a divorce is how to share custody over the holidays? There is no “one size fits all” and many families have their own set of traditions that should be respected as much as possible. Further, you and your ex-spouse or soon to be ex-spouse should be fair to your children, as well as one another. For example, if you celebrate Christmas and your (former) spouse celebrates Channukah, consider working out a visitation schedule that allows your children to spend some or all of the nights of Channukah with your spouse and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with you.

However, in most cases, holiday visitation schedules take precedence over normal, day-to-day visitation schedules. This means that if it is supposed to be your weekend with your children but it is your ex-spouse’s scheduled holiday visitation time, then your ex will have visitation that weekend.

Nevertheless, below is a good representation of a holiday visitation schedule that works well for many divorced couples or who share custody of minor children. The best visitation schedules have dates that clearly set forth the time when the holiday begins. In addition, you will notice that custody sharing alternates between even and odd (every other) years.

Holiday                                   Children With Father                                          Children With Mother

Christmas Eve (11:00 am on
12/24 until 11:00 am on              Odd Numbered Years                                                  Even Numbered Years
12/25)

 

Christmas Day (11:00 am on
12/25 until 5:00 pm on                Even Numbered Years                                                 Odd Numbered Years
12/26)

 

New Year’s Eve (11:00 am on      Odd Numbered Years                                                   Even Numbered Years
12/31 until 11:00 am on
1/1)

 

New Year’s Day (11:00 am on
1/1 until 10:00 pm the same        Even Numbered Years                                                   Odd Numbered Years
day)

Mother’s Day (11:00 am until                      N/A                                                                        All Years
10:00 pm)

 

Father’s Day (11:00 am until                 All Years                                                                               N/A
10:00 pm)

 

Fourth of July (11:00 am on
7/4 until 11:00 am on                      Odd Numbered Years                                                 Even Numbered Years
7/5)

 

Easter Sunday (11:00 am
until 10:00 pm on that                    Even Numbered Years                                                 Odd Numbered Years
Sunday)

 

First Half of Spring Break
(afternoon children released
from school until 11:00 am           Odd Numbered Years                                                  Even Numbered Years
on the day that is the mid-
point of spring break)

 

Second Half of Spring Break
(11:00 am on day that is mid-
point of the break until 11:00      Even Numbered Years                                                   Odd Numbered Years
am the Sunday before school
begins again)

In addition to the above sample schedule, both parents should be allowed to spend some time with the children on their birthday. If this cannot be worked out, then you and your spouse should alternate custody every even/odd year, like the chart above. Court orders often allow for parents to make arrangements that deviate from the schedule if they both agree.

One possible arrangement during summer breaks is that each parent alternates every other two consecutive week periods. This can be worked-out in advance as to which two week periods you and your ex want to have custody. Of course, if your child attends sleep away camp or some other type of special summer program then visitation might be limited. Consider dropping-off your child and having your ex pick them up, or vice versa.

The above schedule is just a suggested example of what a common holiday visitation schedule looks like. Obviously, every family’s circumstances are different and your visitation schedule should reflect these various needs and/or desires. However, it is important to be as detailed as possible and consider setting forth your schedule in a chart format (like the one above) when drafting your marital settlement agreement to avoid any confusion.

If you are going through a divorce or have any child custody issues, you need the help of a knowledgeable family law attorney who knows the law and will fight for the best possible arrangement that fits your needs. We have decades of experience representing spouses and parents in all types of family law cases. Call us today for a consultation at (703) 370 – 5555.

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