Holiday Parenting Time
With the Holiday season (mostly) behind us, many parents are happy because the kids are back in school, and the regular day-to-day schedule has resumed.
This may be particularly true for parents in co-parenting regimes where the joy and excitement of the holidays may be overshadowed by the stress from negotiating holiday time with an ex-partner.
Unfortunately, separation often means that parents and families must adapt their regular traditions or plans so that children can spend meaningful time with both their parents during the holidays. Co-ordinating holiday time is often daunting and parents may be prone to procrastination when it comes to tackling this task.
However, waiting to discuss holiday time with your ex-partner is asking for trouble. Holidays, special celebrations, and vacations are not planned overnight. Time off work may need to be scheduled, childcare may need to be arranged or cancelled, and other individuals (relatives, family, coworkers and other 3rd parties) are often making concurrent plans.
Giving you and the other parent sufficient time to plan and negotiate holidays is extremely important. If you wait too long, unnecessary upset and conflict can occur between you and your partner, with your child being the most impacted.
To that end, it’s time to start thinking about those impending 2022 holidays if you haven’t already done so…. Here are some useful tips when it comes to coordinating holiday with your ex-partner.
- CONSIDER ALL THE DATES
Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving are not the only holidays you’re probably going to want to celebrate. Don’t overlook all the potential days you or the other parent may want to spend with your child. Don’t forget:
- Your standard provincial and federal statutory holidays;
- Non-instructional days – both the longer winter, spring and summer breaks but also the long weekends that your child may have because of professional development days;
- Non-statutory holidays which you and your family may wish to celebrate or observe (Mother and Father’s Day, the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, or various religious holidays); and
- Other special occasions unique to your family (birthdays, anniversaries, annual reunions or get-togethers).
It’s important to be aware of all potential dates that you and your partner may want to spend with your child because it allows both parties (and your families and friends) to plan accordingly and it will ensure that you and your partner can fairly negotiate holiday time.
- PLAN FAR IN ADVANCE
It may seem excessive to consider who has Christmas Eve in 2022 when your calendar is still showing January 2022. However, planning far in advance provides a lot of benefits:
- It provides predictability to you and your partner and the other individuals who are planning their own holidays accordingly;
- It ensures that you and your partner are not fighting about a specific date on the eve of said date: you don’t want a dispute about the holiday overshowing the important date in question;
- It allows your child to experience as many special events as possible. If you plan your Christmas holidays now, both parents can plan their schedules to maximize the likelihood of your child being able to visit the relatives from out of town, attend the company Christmas party, and see Santa at the local winter fair; and finally
- It allows you and your partner time to negotiate or seek third party assistance if you cannot agree. This is important: scheduling mediation, or if necessary a Court date, is not a quick process. The lead time to schedule and have your matter heard in Court can take months (don’t expect to schedule Court in November and have your Christmas parenting time dispute heard before the Court closes on the 23rd of December).
- MAKE A VISUAL OR WRITTEN SCHEDULE
It’s one thing to talk on the phone in November about who is taking vacation time in July and who is taking vacation time in August. It’s another thing for both parties to have it in a calendar that they can reference when they are making their summer plans. Having your schedule in writing is important – it’s a visual reminder of the schedule and a point of communal reference if there is a disagreement about a date.
Having a written or visual schedule can mean:
- Having a formal Agreement drafted or Order granted. An Order or Agreement, if well thought-out, can provide a predictable annual schedule while also providing flexibility if necessary;
- Using a cloud-based calendar program to share a comprehensive parenting schedule with your partner – this can be easy, cheap and accessible to both parties; or
- Using specialized parenting apps or programs. There are a wide range of commercially available apps and programs available meant for individuals co-parenting a child. Many of these apps have calendar programs as a feature. Commercially offered programs may be particularly appropriate in high conflict relationships.
- BE FLEXIBLE
Considering all the dates in advance, planning far ahead, and putting your schedule in writing will assist you and the other parent in minimizing stress associated with coordinating your holidays. However, unexpected life events still occur, so it’s important to be flexible. You may be scheduled to have the upcoming September long weekend with your child to go camping until the other parent calls two weeks beforehand and notifies you that their niece is having a baby shower. Not all days can be planned for and even the best made plans may need to be revised on occasion.
Parents should try to be flexible and cooperative: some events only happen once and children in co-parenting regimes should be able to attend their aunt and uncle’s 50th Anniversary even if it’s unexpectedly scheduled during the other parent’s time.
If unexpected events do happen:
- Tell the other parent about the scheduling issue as soon as possible;
- Be upfront about make-up parenting time and what both parties’ expectations are; and
- Prioritize your child or children – can you reschedule your September camping trip so your child can go to an important annual family reunion?
If you have any questions about holiday parenting time or recommended parenting schedules, you can set up a consultation by calling our office at 587-440-3070 or by using the contact form on our website. Our office is set up to work virtually and we can assist you with any family or divorce issues you may have during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The above information regarding holiday parenting time does not constitute legal advice. EBL Family Law is not liable for any reliance on the above information