What to Consider When Dividing Up Vacations and Holidays
During a marriage, holiday schedules and traditions are a shared experience. When your marriage ends, sorting out how to divide up vacations and holidays can quickly become a point of contention.
It is because of the heightened emotions surrounding vacations and holidays that it is incredibly important for both parties to make definitive choices on vacation schedules.
You should have a plan for splitting time and costs clearly written out in your divorce agreement.
There are a number of ways that parents split up vacations with their children in their Colorado separation agreement, and we’ve listed some of them below.
You can choose to stick to one method or try an a la carte approach. These suggestions are meant to give you guidance and start a conversation, not to describe your personal approach in detail.
We know divorces can get downright nasty, and, on occasion, the children get stuck in the middle. The courts are there to be an unbiased third party that will keep the children’s best interests in mind when making decisions around custody and parenting time.
Before you begin to write your plan, take some time to consider several factors that will go into your new schedule as separate parents.
Family Traditions & Gatherings
Some families have extremely important traditions, especially around major holidays, such as Thanksgiving and December holidays.
It is important to give weight to these traditions and decide whether they can be kept or need to be modified.
If your children are old enough, talk to them about which traditions are most important to them and which ones they’re willing to change.
Traditions can also add a level of stability for children as they are making adjustments in their lives, particularly in the first few years after a divorce.
Working to maintain traditions is time well spent. Building new traditions can also be valuable.
A family may start out trying to keep time spent at each parent’s home equal, especially on the holidays. However this can involve driving time and disruption in the middle of these special days, and so each parent may instead choose to have the children for Thanksgiving one year and Christmas the next.
Travel Planning & Needs
If you are considering splitting longer vacations such as summer break, it’s important to discuss the logistics of spending that extended time with one parent or the other.
Will you have the space and resources to care for your children for a couple of months at a time? What actions will you need to take in order to make their stay as comfortable as possible?
Cost of Travel
If you live in another state and your children need to fly to stay with you, be sure to take into consideration the higher cost of travel for each child.
Airlines have varying policies on unaccompanied minors, and there may charge additional fees for your child flying alone. Children under 5 years of age may not fly alone under any circumstances.
One parent must accompany them on each leg of the flight. That mean you or your spouse must purchase at least one additional round trip ticket.
IMPORTANT: You should explicitly address in the written separation or divorce agreement who pays for travel and when.
Children Should Spend Time with Each Parent
Unless there are extenuating circumstances, both parents deserve the opportunity to spend holidays with their children.
The courts see this as a priority, as well. Attempting to claim all the major holidays for yourself is not a good idea.
Circumstances can change. For example, your children may have different holiday schedules for the different schools they attend, and parents may change jobs, remarry, and bring other children and their schedules into the mix.
It is important to be flexible, civil, and continue to communicate throughout the children’s time at home.
9 Ways to Divide Vacations & Holidays
Here are nine common ways divorced parents divide vacations and holidays with their children:
1. Split the Day
Some families have customs that are very important on each holiday, and neither wants to give up the traditions. In order to celebrate them both, some parents will split the major holidays. One parent has the morning and the other has the afternoon.
Some downsides to this arrangement are that the children are exhausted by the additional excitement and upheaval. Also, a good chunk of the day can be spent shuttling the children from one home to another.
2. Alternate Holidays
This is a pretty common way of treating the bigger holidays between parents. Here’s how it works:
Develop an alternating schedule in which Parent 1 has the children on Thanksgiving and Parent 2 has them for Christmas. The following year, Parent 2 gets the children on Thanksgiving and Parent 1 has them for Christmas.
It is an equitable agreement, and one in which parts of the days are not spent transporting children from one parent to another.
This arrangement also allows your children to have a full and relaxing day with one side of the family.
3. Spend the Holiday Together
Now, for obvious reasons, this option is not for all divorced parents. If your divorce was amicable enough that you and your ex-partner can still spend time together, then this can be a choice.
Everyone (including new partners) can enjoy the moment, and the children are able to see the entire family on every holiday.
Be advised that this only works if you and your former spouse are civil to each other and any new significant others. If being in the same home creates tension, this is not the right option.
It is possible that after some time has gone by and emotions have settled this could be a great way to spend the holidays.
You must be honest with yourself about how this arrangement could affect not only your feelings but those of your children, your new spouse, your ex, and possibly their new partner.
4. Create an Alternate Holiday “Day”
If the idea of giving up a major holiday does not sit well with you, you could consider creating a new holiday tradition on an entirely different day.
Here’s an example: One parent celebrates Christmas Dec. 25 and the other Jan. 1. The holiday traditions can be honored and the children can celebrate with both parents.
5. Split or Alternate the Breaks
When longer school vacations, such as winter and summer breaks, come along, dividing up all of that free time can become an issue.
One way of managing parenting time during the breaks is to alternate the weeks the children spend with each parent. This will let you spend an extended amount of time with them.
Another option is, rather than alternate weeks, you and your former spouse could choose to alternate entire breaks. One of you hosts the children on winter break and the other can take them on summer vacation. The following year, you can switch breaks.
6. Continue with Normal Parenting Time Schedule
If the idea of splitting up the smaller holidays like July Fourth or Presidents’ Day is too stressful for you, you and your ex can stick to the same parenting time schedule that you’ve agreed to for the rest of the year.
However, consider that if you do that, your parenting schedule will not change over holidays like Memorial Day, Presidents’ Day and Labor Day.
While it can make schedules simpler, keep in mind these smaller holidays come with time off work and school, often for a three-day weekend.
Most schools and offices close for Labor Day, and if you do not specify that you would like to have your children for that weekend, you may be missing an opportunity for a fun three days with your children.
7. Designate Constant Holidays
Some holidays may not have particular importance to you, but they could be important for the other parent.
Holidays like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and the parent’s birthday make sense for the children to spend the day with that particular parent.
In these cases, it is simple enough to designate those as constant days that you and your ex will spend with the children every year.
If you remarry and have children with your new spouse, you may revisit some of these choices, but think about what easy choices you can make now so as to avoid problems later on.
8. Digital Celebration
Sometimes a parent may have commitments or jobs that prevent them from celebrating with the children in person.
Fortunately, we live in a time of advanced digital communications. Make an agreement with your former spouse to have a digital celebration of sorts when you cannot be there in person.
9. Make a Plan, Don’t Spend Your Holidays Alone
It is incredibly important to put in writing a complete schedule for holiday parenting time. If you neglect this portion of the divorce, you could end up spending holidays alone.
Not having a solid plan in place also open you up to spending unnecessary time arguing with your ex about the holidays.
Once the schedule is documented, there will be far less room for disputes.
Need Help or Have Questions?
Robinson & Henry offers a free consultation. Schedule some time to meet with one of our divorce attorneys, or call us at 303-688-0944.
Use the sample worksheet below to ensure you don’t miss a holiday.
Holiday and Vacation Schedule
Indicate if child(ren) will be with the parent in ODD or EVEN numbered years or indicate EVERY year (See the first few for an example):