Take action now! The holidays are just around the corner. A plan for holiday parenting time needs to be determined before it’s too late. Especially if travel plans are involved now is the time to work out a schedule that will avoid additional stress during the holidays. Even if the parties follow the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines for holidays, avoid any last-minute glitches by planning ahead for the division of holiday time. Of course, with any holiday parenting time plan, the parties should ultimately consider the best interests of the children so that they are able to see family from both sides and be able to relax and enjoy their holidays too! This blog provides you with six tips to maximize your parenting time and avoid the “oops”.
- It’s never too early to start planning! The parties are always encouraged to work together for the benefit of the children, if they live within a short distance of each other, and are able to accommodate family functions on both sides of the family, this should be done. If the parties can come to an agreement to share holiday time that would ultimately be the best. Find a schedule that provides essentially equal time to attend family gatherings, send a proposal now! Give the other parent 5-7 days to respond. Find out what plans the other parent has in the works. Communication is key! In the event that the parties cannot reach an agreement, then utilize the specific agreement provided by the latest court order that addressed holiday parenting time. If there is not a specific agreement or order as to holiday parenting time, then follow the Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines (IPTG’s)1 In certain agreements or orders, such as if the parties have joint physical custody, one parent may be designated the “custodial” parent for purposes of holiday parenting time.
- Check the school schedule for Thanksgiving Break and Winter Break. Schools post their calendars online. Know when each holiday break begins and ends. Thanksgiving break sometimes is for a full week in some schools. Thanksgiving often includes Wednesday off from school as well. The guidelines have not been modified to include these additional days off from school for holiday parenting time. This is good to remember when negotiating the original agreement, to include all of the holiday time, and not just the IPTG designated times. This also may impact the regular parenting time of the noncustodial parent, who may have Wednesday evening beginning after school the day before Thanksgiving. Again, review the calendar and plan ahead of time to avoid last-minute arguments.The Winter break is often not an even number of overnights. So there will need to be some concession as to who will receive the extra overnight. Typically, it would be suggested that the noncustodial parent would receive the additional overnight, as the end time for the break is the night before school begins and the child is to be returned the night before school to the custodial parent. Frequently, parties will modify the parenting time on Christmas Day to work around family gatherings versus following the noon to 9 p.m. guideline for Christmas Day for the parent that Christmas Day does not fall within their “half” of Winter Break. Additionally, to reduce back and forth, some families allow the child(ren) to spend the night on Christmas Day and maybe a few days after, or that begins their half of the time. The parent with the first ½ of the winter break would then resume their remaining days before school begins.
- Consider how travel plans will impact holiday parenting time? Many parents take the opportunity of longer breaks to travel to see family out of town or take a vacation. This may create issues for the division of Christmas Day or other religious events if the parties typically live close to one another and share Christmas Day. If a parent will miss Christmas Day or other important religious events, try to work out time near the important day or agree in writing (and submit as an Order) to provide the other parent with the full day the following year.
- Make travel arrangements sooner than later! Some parents live far apart, and travel is necessary to exchange the child(ren) during the holiday time. There could be significant drive time for an exchange, or it could be more efficient to fly. Remember that there could be delays and return of the child the night before school and may need to be arranged to occur earlier or later than 6 or 7 p.m. depending on the weather. Check flight availability and price. Can the child fly by themselves as an unaccompanied minor? Some unaccompanied minor flights need to be direct flights. In order to obtain the best prices, attempt to decide on flights at least 30 days in advance. Most court orders determine who is the financially responsible party for travel expenses for the child(ren) for each trip, or how the expenses will be divided. Also, remember to send the flight information to the other parent.
- Consider the age of the children. When determining the division of time over the holidays, consider the age of the child. If there are children that are younger than three (3) years of age, think about shorter stretches of time versus a full seven days or more.
- Consider work schedules/commitments. Finally, in planning for holiday parenting time, consider the availability of both parents during the holiday breaks. In many situations, the holidays are the “busy” time of the year, or a parent has a set schedule or required holidays they work. Try to accommodate both parents' work commitments or offer to trade the holiday to ensure that the child(ren) is able to enjoy time with their parent.Some parents only have the day of Thanksgiving or Christmas or another religious holiday off. Allow that parent to start their parenting time at 10:00 am and include the overnight, if possible.Don’t forget the Opportunity for Additional Parenting Time2 may apply if a parent works during the holiday break times. The parent that is not working should be given the opportunity to provide care and spend time with the child(ren) during holidays as well. Typically, arrangements would be made for the child to return each day to the working parent during their parenting time.
In the event that the parents are unable to come to a resolution or determine what their parenting time should be during any holiday parenting time, they should contact their respective counsel (and/or their Parenting Coordinator, if they have one) immediately to try to resolve the dispute. Allowing sufficient time to file with the Court and obtain a hearing is necessary when there is a dispute on parenting time or travel related to parenting time. So start planning early! Begin the process of planning by October for Thanksgiving and Winter Breaks. This will then allow the parties to negotiate through counsels, if necessary, to try to resolve any ambiguities with the holiday parenting time schedule.
Remember calling the police to enforce a holiday parenting time schedule is never good for the child(ren) involved and may not result in a resolution of the dispute. These tips should avoid that need.
Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. attorneys practice domestic relations law throughout the State of Indiana and understand the significance of holiday parenting time matters and planning for the same. We hope this blog assists you. This blog post is written by Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. advocates and is not intended as specific legal advice or a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.
- Indiana Parenting Time Guidelines Section II F.2.B. & C.
- Indiana Parenting Time Guideline Section I C. 3.