Making Your Holiday Child Custody Time-Sharing Plan Work in Florida
The holidays are often a joyous time of year for parents and children alike. But when parents have separated or are going through a divorce, the time they spend with their children over the holidays can become an issue. If parents get along and work well together, they can often keep this issue from destroying these otherwise enjoyable breaks from everyday life. But when parents struggle to get along or are in the middle of a divorce that isn’t settled yet, anxiety over holiday time with their kids can rear its ugly head. Today, we will look at different ways that you can structure your parenting plan to work best for you and your kids for years to come.
First, Let’s Define “Holiday”
What exactly qualifies as a holiday for the purposes of a Florida parenting plan? As we all know, some holidays are shared by everyone and some are not. Here is a list of the holidays that you will want to consider when making your parenting plan.
New Year’s Day
Martin Luther King Day
President’s Day / Washington’s Birthday
Fourth of July
New Year’s Eve
On top of all these holidays, you will likely want to include your children’s birthdays, your birthday, your co-parent’s birthday, any religious holidays you observe that are not listed above, state holidays, days off from school for teacher meetings, etc., and any other special occasions that are routinely observed every year.
The Basic Rule Is 50/50
Regardless of what time-sharing schedule the court puts into place for the rest of the year, holidays are supposed to be split 50/50 between parents in Florida. So even if your time-sharing plan is such that you typically only see your child every other weekend, your holiday time should be split evenly between parents. In Todd v. Todd-Guillaume, 972 So. 2d 1003 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008), the appellate court held that judges abuse their discretion if they split holidays in any way other than 50/50 — unless they make an express showing that a 50/50 split would not be in the child’s best interests. Courts recognize that holidays hold an enormous amount of emotional value to kids and parents alike. Therefore, the ability to share holiday time equally with each parent is important, absent extraordinary extenuating circumstances.
That being said, there is no statutory rule or case law that dictates how you may format your holiday time-sharing. So within the basic 50/50 rule, you have great flexibility in structuring your holiday parenting plan.
Various Ways to Split the Time
Probably the best place to hash out the details of holiday parenting plans is in the mediation room. As with all family matters, courts prefer for parents to work out an agreement together. You know your family best. You know which holidays matter the most to whom, and you are in the best position to make everybody in your family happy and content at holiday time. That being said, let’s look at some common examples of how people tend to split up their holiday time.
One way to solve the holiday issue is to simply alternate who gets which holiday from year to year. In this plan, you would end up spending the entire holiday with your children every other year. For instance, Christmas could go entirely to mom in even years and to dad in odd years. Likewise, Thanksgiving could be assigned to mom in odd years and dad in even years. This ensures that you spend at least half the yearly holiday with your kids on a rotating basis.
The benefit of this approach is that it is simpler and the children don’t spend each holiday being shuffled back and forth between homes. However, the drawback is that every other year you’ll be completely without your child on certain holidays.
Split the Holidays
If you would rather be sure to see your kids at least a little for each holiday, instead of alternating each year you could split holidays up. As an example, let’s use Christmas again. Christmas happens during winter break from school. So mom could take the kids for the beginning of the winter break, up to Christmas morning. Then, at say 2 pm, dad could pick the kids up to enjoy Christmas dinner and keep the kids through the end of the winter break. Or you could do the same plan and mom gets Christmas Eve and dad gets Christmas day. The possibilities are many, and it’s up to you to decide which way you prefer to spend your holiday time.
Schedule the Holiday Twice
Another option is to simply celebrate each holiday twice. Using Christmas as our example again, mom could celebrate Christmas with the kids on December 22nd, and dad could celebrate with them on December 25th. Although this may not work as well for every holiday, you can be creative when working out your plan this way.
Assign Fixed Holidays
This plan may work for you if certain holidays are more important to one parent than the other. For instance, if mom is Jewish and dad is Catholic, mom may want to allow dad to have the kids for Christmas every year if she gets Thanksgiving every year. Again, if you get creative and cooperative you can create any plan that you want that allows each parent approximately equal holiday time with the kids throughout the year.
Let Us Help
The compassionate attorneys of The Jarbath Peña Law Group understand the importance of having a good parenting plan that works well for you all year and especially during the emotional holiday season. We can help you work with your co-parent to devise a plan that works for you and your kids. And if your co-parent won’t cooperate, we can zealously advocate for you in court to make sure you are set up for success for many years to come. Call today at 305-615-1005 or through our online contact form to set up your initial consultation. We look forward to meeting you!