Split custody is difficult for families in Oklahoma; however, splitting custody during the holidays is one of the most difficult aspects of child custody cases. Most people want to spend time with their children and family during the holidays, but divorce almost always comes with spending some time away from your children. The equitable approach is to divide holidays evenly; however, that means the child will miss at least one of their parents on each holiday. Additionally, it is hard to split holidays in a way that feels fair to the children and both parents. In many cases, the holiday most important to one parent is the most important to the other as well.
Adding the wishes of extended family and grandparent visitation can increase the stress on all parties. This article is intended to given examples of options and help add calm to the stress of holiday visitation in Oklahoma.
One of the most common options in dividing holiday visitation is to alternate the year of each major holiday or some other alternating schedule. One parent might get the child on Easter and Thanksgiving on even years and the other parent has the child for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Then holiday visitation is flipped the next year. This affords both parents some of the most important or biggest holidays each year.
An option when different holidays hold different levels of importance to parents is to set a fixed holiday visitation schedule. One parent is assigned certain holidays; hopefully that are important to that parent and the other parent is assigned the remaining holidays. This schedule repeats every year and adds certainty for the parents and for the children. An example is one parent having the children on Christmas every year and spending Thanksgiving day with the other parent every year.
Parents who live in the same geographical area, i.e. Edmond or Oklahoma City may consider splitting up holiday weekends so the child can spend time with both parents on every major holiday. In split holiday visitation, one parent gets the first half of the holiday and the other parent gets the second half of the holiday. Many of our Edmond and Oklahoma City clients explore this option so they can spend time with their children on every holiday. When one parent lives in Edmond and the other parent lives much further away; this can be difficult to work out logistically. On Thanksgiving weekend, one parent might take the Thursday and following Friday while the other parent takes the weekend following Thanksgiving.
Many children celebrate each holiday twice with both sides of their family. One with each parent, regardless of the actual date. Parents can let custody schedules play out naturally and the parent that has visitation or custody off the holiday will celebrate with the children before or after the actual holiday; depending on when their visitation or custody occurs. Some parents and children like more certainty and will have the actual holiday and a set alternate day to celebrate with their other parent.
Children’s birthdays after divorce or separation can be even more complicated than holidays. However, as a child of divorce I can tell you time with each of your parents (and the presents) are more important than the actual date to children. Dividing the day is sometimes an option; such as an overnight and up through lunch birthday celebration with one parent and the afternoon and night of the child’s birthday with their other parent.
Divorced parents that can work together will often arrange splitting the day or a joint birthday party celebration. However, geography or one parent living in Edmond and the other parent living in Tulsa often makes joint birthday parties impossible. Often in those cases, the solution is to alternate years. From experience representing divorcing parents in Edmond and throughout Oklahoma; it is often best to find a way to allow both parents to see their child on his or her birthday, if possible.
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day
For opposite-sex parents, this is the easiest bridge to cross: mother has parenting time on Mother’s Day and father has parenting time on Father’s Day. However, same-sex parents who divorce have a more difficult time. One solution is to make both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day “Parents’ Day” and alternate who gets to celebrate on which date.
Three Day Weekends
Holiday weekends are great opportunities for one parent to take the children for a weekend getaway. Holidays such as Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, or Labor Day, are some to consider. One question is often how to handle it when one parent would normally have the child on the weekend, but the other parent would normally have them on Monday. One option is to give the child an extra day with the parent that has that weekend of visitation or time with the child. Another option is to count up all of the three-day weekend holidays in the year and divide them between parents, which may cause some disruption to the weekend/school week flow, but work for some families!
Holidays are stressful enough with a complete family and many clients find it even more difficult after divorce, but I can tell you from real life experience and representing many parents in divorce and child custody cases; the key is to focus on what is best for the children and being open to different solutions that allow both parents to spend quality time on or around each holiday with their children. Years from now, children of divorce will not remember who they spend Thanksgiving Day with, i.e. mom or dad; what they will remember are the stories, football, or other family traditions. So, don’t get caught up in the minutia of child custody during the holidays. Instead, find a time or way to share holidays with your children and families and if you are facing or considering divorce contact a family law attorney in Oklahoma for advice.