Attorney, Cordell & Cordell
Perhaps the biggest concern for divorcing parents is how the parenting time is to be divided.
Parenting time involves much more that just the week-to-week schedule, but also includes special periods including the seasonal breaks from school and holidays.
In this article, I will provide examples of how a standard holiday visitation schedule in a parenting plan should look and what wording you should use in your divorce decree.
In many states, including Georgia where I practice, the law requires that the parenting times for these holiday periods must also be defined in the parenting plan and require specific details as to all elements of the custodial arrangements.
A typical law will state that unless otherwise ordered by the judge, or agreed upon by the parties, a parenting plan shall include, but not be limited to how holidays, birthdays, vacations, school breaks, and other special occasions will be spent with each parent, including the time of day that each event will begin and end.
In most cases, the parents share equal, or nearly equal, holiday parenting time. A standard holiday schedule in a parenting plan is as follows:
Major Holidays and Vacation Periods
The day-to-day schedule shall apply unless other arrangements are set forth: _______________________________________________________ beginning _____________________.
The ( ) mother ( ) father shall have the child(ren) for the first period from the day and time school is dismissed until December ______ at __________ a.m./p.m. in ( ) odd numbered years ( ) even numbered years ( ) every year. The other parent will have the child(ren) for the second period from the day and time indicated above until 6:00 p.m. on the evening before school resumes. Unless otherwise indicated, the parties shall alternate the first and second periods each year.
Other agreement of the parents: _______________________________________________________.
Define summer vacation period: _______________________________________________
The day-to-day schedule shall apply unless other arrangements are set forth: _____________________________________________ beginning _____________________.
Spring Vacation (if applicable)
The day-to-day schedule shall apply unless other arrangements are set forth: _________________________________________________________ beginning _____________________.
Fall Vacation (if applicable)
The day-to-day schedule shall apply unless other arrangements are set forth: ______________________________________________________ beginning _____________________.
Other Holiday Schedule (if applicable)
Indicate if child(ren) will be with the parent in ODD or EVEN numbered years or indicate EVERY year:
|Martin Luther King Day||_________________||__________________|
|Religious Holidays: ________________
Other extended periods of time during school, etc. (refer to the school schedule)
Start and end dates for holiday visitation
For the purposes of this parenting plan, the holiday will start and end as follows (choose one):
( ) Holidays that fall on Friday will include the following Saturday and Sunday
( ) Holidays that fall on Monday will include the preceding Saturday and Sunday
( ) Other: _______________________
Because most jurisdictions have varying school schedules and because the holiday schedule changes from year to year, it is important that the parenting plan not include exact dates and/or numbers of days if equal parenting time is the goal.
For example, many parents want to divide the Christmas (Winter) break from school on Christmas Day. If the goal is to ensure that both parents are able to see the children on Christmas Day every year, then that is fine.
However, this type of divide most often results in unequal parenting time during the break from school. If, in a given year, the break begins on December 21, and the exchange point is midday on Christmas Day, then the parent with the first half of the break only gets four days of parenting time, while the other parent may have 10 or 12 days.
If equal parenting time is the goal, then a better way to structure the break is to define it as follows:
“In odd numbered years, Wife shall have the first half of the Christmas break from school and Husband shall have the second half of the break from school. The exchange of the Minor Children shall take place at noon on the middle day of the break. This schedule shall reverse for the even numbered years.”
The Christmas (Winter) break is the only holiday break that the judges typically divide such that both parents share some portion of the break. Otherwise, the breaks typically alternate such that one parent has the break/holiday in even numbered years and the other parent has the break in odd numbered years.
Summer vacation is yet another of the “special” periods for parenting time. The judge will give both parents some exclusive time for vacations.
A typical standard visitation plan gives each parent two one-week uninterrupted periods.
Except during those exclusive periods, the parties operate under their normal parenting schedules. Depending on evidence presented at trial, including the parties’ work schedules and available vacation time, the judge may vary this some.
One point to remember is that anything can be done by agreement. Breaks during the spring, summer, winter or any other holiday can be divided as the parties agree.
Further, the parties can add or delete whichever holidays they choose according to their religious schedules and/or holiday preferences.
Cordell & Cordell has men’s divorce lawyers located nationwide should you seek legal representation.
Andrea M. Johnson is a Senior Attorney in the Atlanta, Georgia office of Cordell & Cordell, where she practices domestic relations exclusively. Ms. Johnson is licensed to practice law in the state of Georgia. Ms. Johnson was born in the metro-Atlanta area and has spent most of her life in Georgia. She received her Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia in 1998. Ms. Johnson received her Juris Doctor from Mercer University School of Law in 2002. Since graduating from law school, Ms. Johnson has practiced in the area of family law. Additionally, she has worked in general civil practice, immigration, and estate planning. Ms. Johnson has briefed two cases successfully before the Georgia Court of Appeals, one of which was a modification of custody action.
One comment on “How To Devise a Holiday Parenting Plan”
My ex and I have a court ordered 2-2-5-5 plan with a holiday plan. As part of the holiday plan, this year she had the Thanksgiving week. In turn, this year it is my turn to have the first week of the holiday break including Christmas, and she would then get the second week of the normal two week break mas her holiday time. But, in their infinite wisdom, the two school districts in which my two children are schooled have different two week dates for the holiday break and therefore the kids share ONLY the Christmas week. My son has the week after Christmas week off, my daughter the week before. What is the right thing to do here? If I were in her shoes, I would want at least a few days of off time with the kids to enjoy Christmas, and at the same time, I feel I should get my week with them as she had at Thanksgiving. There also is the possibility that the two school districts will never be the same no matter whose turn it is.