Four Steps for Successfully Navigating Child Placement During the Holidays

With the holiday season just around the corner (and retail stores ramping up advertising efforts), now is a good time to consider how you will navigate your physical placement schedule during the irregular schedules inherent to this time of year. Despite the expected holiday cheer, we often see an increase in placement disputes during the holidays. The reason for this increase, in part, stems from the way regular placement schedules are often interrupted by holiday placement schedules. This change in the normal routine, coupled with each parent’s understandable desire to spend the holidays with his/her children, can lead to an environment ripe for dispute. However, understanding the function of holiday placement schedules, and your placement schedule’s particular terms, can help facilitate a smooth holiday season for all!

1) Consult Your Holiday Placement Schedule

To determine if you have a holiday placement schedule, reference your Marital Settlement Agreement and/or your case’s most recent orders regarding physical placement. If you no longer have these documents, you may typically request copies from the records department of the county in which your case was decided. In the event you do not have a holiday placement schedule, you should consult an attorney to determine whether your regular placement schedule may be modified to include one.

2) Determine Whether Your Holiday Placement Schedule Supersedes the Regular Placement Schedule

Typically the order or stipulation regarding physical placement will explicitly state that the holiday placement schedule does supersede, or override, the regular placement schedule. However, even when this is not explicitly stated, a court will likely assume a holiday placement schedule has that effect.

3) Understand the Terms of the Holiday Placement Schedule

There’s no “right way” to craft a holiday placement schedule. Instead, parents should consider their family’s unique needs, such as whether one holiday is particularly important to a specific parent. For example, a father will typically always have placement during Father’s Day and a mother will typically always have placement during Mother’s Day. However, for mutually important holidays such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, parents will typically split holiday placement and/or alternate holiday placement on an annual basis. Here is an example of a holiday placement schedule:

4) Avoid Common Holiday Placement Pitfalls

Being aware of common issues can help you avoid unnecessary disputes and litigation related to your holiday placement schedule. In this regard, it is important to be mindful of the following:

  • In most cases, “make-up time” is not given to a parent that misses regular placement time due to the holiday schedule.
  • In the event the holiday placement schedule is silent as to a particular holiday, parents should default to following the regular placement schedule for that day.
  • Be particularly mindful of how allotted vacation placement (if any) works in conjunction with your holiday placement schedule. Specifically, note whether the holiday placement schedule or the vacation placement schedule takes precedence.
  • Pay careful attention to the order governing the New Year’s holiday if you and your co-parent alternate this holiday based on whether it is an even- or odd-numbered year, as this holiday will encompass both an even and odd-numbered year.

We know the holidays can be a stressful time, especially amidst efforts to co-parent. If you have questions related to your holiday or regular placement schedule or have a physical placement dispute, contact our family law attorneys to set up a consultation. We’d be happy to meet with you!

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Jessa Victor