Ann Fabrikant, Esq.NJ Divorce and Family Law Attorney
You may be wondering how the holidays snuck up on us so quickly. It appears that stores all over the Central New Jersey area are working hard to decorate for December before the kids have even gone trick-or-treating! And speaking of Halloween, how are you and your co-parent going to arrange seeing your children all decked out in their costumes? I know those precious costume moments can be hard to miss for either parent, so it is best to agree to a schedule well in advance.
When parents divorce, agreeing to a holiday schedule can be difficult. Each one of you, as well as extended friends and family would like to see the children, celebrate, and exchange gifts. Just as every divorce is different so is every holiday schedule. However, there are some common ways parents generally come to an agreement regarding holidays. Here are some great ideas on how you can co-parent through the holidays:
- Alternate the holidays throughout the year and in alternating years. For example, in all even years, your child spends Thanksgiving with you, Christmas Eve with your ex, Christmas Day with you. This continues with all the holidays, New Years, Easter, etc. Then, in all odd years, the reverse occurs, so your child spends Thanksgiving with your ex, Christmas Eve with you, etc.
- If there are certain holidays that you always celebrate, and your ex did not, and vice versa, whether it is due to religious beliefs or simply family tradition, sometimes parents will agree that the children will spend one holiday every year with them and another holiday every year with the other parent. For example, if you celebrate the Jewish holidays, then you may have the children for every Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover, while your ex may have them for every Christmas and Easter. Or if you both celebrate Christmas, but it is a tradition for your family to celebrate on Christmas Eve and for your ex to celebrate on Christmas Day, you may agree that you have every Christmas Eve and your ex has every Christmas Day.
- If one parent has the children for the majority of the time because the other parent lives far away, sometimes that parent can end up with the majority of the holidays because it is easier for the children to travel long distances when they are off from school.
- Some parents split every holiday with the other parent, so that the children spend each and every holiday with both parents. This can work if one parent lives in East Brunswick and the other lives in Metuchen or Edison. However, it can be difficult and even impractical, if one parent lives in Middlesex County and the other in Union or Somerset or Bergen Counties, or if one parent lives in New Jersey and the other lives in another state. Even more rare, some invite the other parent to spend the holidays with them!
As a divorced parent, it will be hard for you to give up spending certain holidays with your children. However, it is most important to remember that this is about your children too. It is important to agree upon a holiday schedule that works for you and your family and maintains your children’s traditions as seamlessly and drama-free as possible.