Virginia is a typical American state, if you consider “typical” to include, according to Only In Your State1, the world’s longest boardwalk (Virginia Beach), the world’s record for being struck by lightning, and the world’s biggest mandolin jam. Virginia is typically atypical, as are Virginia’s Moms and Dads. Working out holiday custody schedules can start with “typical” and lead to creative and inventive solutions.
When Determining a Holiday Custody Schedule, Consider Everything
When working out all the myriad of details in a property settlement agreement, you may be tempted to discount the holiday visitation or parenting time schedule. Say you are having weekly conferences in early spring. Christmas or Thanksgiving may not be on your mind.
If you have little children, though, major holidays are never far from their mind. We don’t mean Flag Day and Arbor Day. We mean Halloween, Independence Day cookouts, and 9:00 o’clock New Year’s Eve. We mean Hannukah or Christmas, Thanksgiving and birthdays.
These holidays are crucial in the lives of small children. They establish traditions. They create memories and build stability. They mark rites of passage, from tricycles to ATVs, from Red Ryder BB guns to compound bows, from bunny slopes to snowboards.
So, think through exactly what you want for your children at the holidays. Perhaps you want to be on hand for the year your child can hunt alone for the first time. Perhaps you want to watch your child find her first Easter egg. Whatever stirs you and your child must be your focus.
Avoid Conflict for the Sake of Your Children
The one family is now two, and the needs of the mother of your children or your ex-wife must be part of any agreement. If the two of you keep in mind the needs of your children, the necessary sacrifice needed to meet in the middle is easier to handle.
Conflict will come, of course. Have a plan to shield your children from the contention. They are not responsible for the problems in establishing holiday schedules. Virginia keeps the primacy of the needs of your child at the forefront of every decision; it’s baked into the law.
Helpful Ways to Work Out the Details
Consider using a paid online program like Our Family Wizard to help iron out joint custody holiday schedules. Using an unbiased application can remove fuel for conflict.
Another online program, Custody X Change, offers innovative suggestions, too:
- Split the holiday itself in half, if distance is not an issue — determine who has the children from waking to lunch, then after lunch to bedtime
- Have two holidays! What child wouldn’t like to have two Christmases or Hannukahs? Two Thanksgiving meals (on two different days) are great, too!
Ask your divorce attorney for suggestions. A common arrangement is to make holidays a priority over vacation days. Vacation days can take precedent over regular visitation schedules.
Since holidays are annual, a typical schedule gives Dad odd years, Mom even years for the year’s holidays, or vice versa. Yet each holiday can be arranged separately, so long as the agreed-upon list gives each parent roughly equal time.
Special Considerations for Holidays
Holiday schedules can be considered separate and apart from the rest of the year’s parenting time schedules. Suppose you have an every-other-weekend arrangement as the non-custodial parent. Look ahead, perhaps several years, to see how significant holidays may play out.
Thanksgiving is always a Thursday, and many federal holidays are always Mondays. But other holidays can shift the day of the week, the date, or both.
Leap years add to confusion. While negotiating the property settlement agreement, generate a few years’ worth of calendars and make a point of talking about every child-friendly holiday:
- New Year’s Eve (always December 31 but the day changes)
- Easter or Passover (Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after March 21, while Passover is the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Nisan)
- Memorial Day (always a Monday and the unofficial start of summer; the date changes)
- Independence Day (always July 4 but the day changes)
- Halloween (always October 31 but the day changes; individual towns and cities set their own Trick-or-Treat schedules)
- Thanksgiving (always the fourth Thursday in November but the date changes)
- Black Friday (always the day after Thanksgiving; teenagers and shopping!)
Add to this birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Bar or Bat mitzvahs, Lee-Jackson Day, Yorktown Victory Day and just about anything your family holds dear.
A conciliatory gesture on both parents’ part is to always give Mother’s Day weekend to Mom and Father’s Day weekend to Dad, which just feels right for most Virginians.
Call The Custody Lawyers for Dads
To work out ideal custody schedules, turn to the professionals of The Firm For Men. Contact us online, or telephone our Virginia Beach offices at 757-383-9184. We can help you craft the custody schedule that is typical for your family, even if it seems to set a world’s record for weirdness. We are attorneys; we don’t judge.