Few things challenge a divorced parent like being without their child on a special occasion. Birthdays, holidays and special events are billed as a time to celebrate family. A separation upends this dynamic. Everything that had been unified is now split in two.
Holiday periods are rife with opportunity for disputes over the physical placement schedule. How might these ultimately be resolved?
The holiday placement schedule takes precedence
As part of your judgment of divorce or court order, there will be likely be detailed provisions related to parenting time. First there is the physical placement schedule, which allocates time a child spends with each parent on a regular, day-to-day basis. This is generally broken into days of the week.
Second, there is a separate “summer and holiday placement schedule.” This section contains specific instructions for a long list of special occasions, as well as directions for which parent will have the child on each of these days. The default arrangement is usually to do every other year.
When there is a holiday-related dispute, the holiday placement schedule takes precedence. For example, let’s say your former spouse normally has your child every Thursday, but you get your child on Thanksgiving during even years. In 2020, your child should be with you for Turkey Day, regardless of the day-to-day physical placement schedule.
In certain cases, both parents may agree to deviate from the holiday placement schedule on a one-off basis. When this occurs, you should be sure to get this in writing in order to avoid related disputes down the line.
Tips for dealing with an uncooperative parent
Unfortunately, sometimes your child’s other parent may choose to be uncooperative. In the moment, you have few options for enforcing the matter. We suggest keeping a detailed written record of such schedule violations. These accounts can help should you decide to involve the courts in the matter.
Similarly, remember to put your child first. If they believe they are at the center of a hostile argument – in the middle of a holiday, no less – it may have a significant, negative impact. It is usually more beneficial to take the difficult high road, avoid any holiday placement quarrels, and address the matter later through the courts.