The holidays form childhood memories that last a lifetime.  Every parent finds each one as important as the next.  When parents are working out custody issues, it is common, however, for parents to focus only on the main issues such as custody, child support, and any property division.  After hammering out of all the details, at the end, there is a tendency for weary parents to push the holiday schedule to the side, or state in the proposed decree “the parties will alternate holidays” or will “share holidays  as agreed.”   The rush to move on ultimately is the same a disagreement delayed.

So why would it be worth the time for you and your soon-to-be-ex to pause and figure out who will celebrate which holidays when?

  • The last thing you and your children need is an open door for more hurt feelings, confusion, and arguments at a time when everything is supposed to be merry and bright but in reality is a great deal of stress for all of the members of the family.
  • You can still work it out with the other parent, but when there is s a disagreement, your clear and concise holiday schedule will dictate. 
  • Judges prefer holiday schedules in the court’s order, and the more detailed, the better.  The Minnesota Court of Appeals addressed holiday schedules in Suleski v. Rupe, 855 N.W.2d 330 (Minn. Ct. App. 2014), stating that there must be detailed findings when one parent will have certain holidays every year to show why it is in the children’s best interests.

When deciding on a holiday schedule, think about your family’s traditions, and what is most important to you and your children.  The reality is that one parent is not going to be awarded all of the holidays.  For some parents, Christmas Eve may be more important than Christmas Day.  Fourth of July may be equally important as Mexican Independence Day. 

A parent does not have to celebrate a child’s birthday necessarily on the exact date; but rather, the weekend immediately following.  The time spent with the child is more important than the actual date.  Decide who will have the odd years, and who will have the even years, or whether one parent will always have the same holiday each year—and why.  It is important that parents remember that the schedule is not for them.  It is for the best interests of their children.  Parents must take into account how your children would prefer to have time to relax and play on holidays, rather than shuffling back and forth in a car, especially with cold weather and bad roads. 

Following a separation or divorce, the first holidays can be an adjustment period, and wanting to keep everything “the same” for your children is an understandable feeling.  However, the hard truth is that the other parent is not part of your celebrations anymore.  It is okay to start new traditions while making sure you communicate about any change in the religious practices of the children.  Whenever possible, communicate with the other parent as the first of each holiday approaches to ensure you are both meeting your children’s needs, and that they will feel secure and loved in spite of the changes.  Respect that the other parent may not put the same emphasis on certain holiday “requirements” as you do—just take a deep breath and let it go. 

Regardless of how you may celebrate differently from your ex, you will both be glad you have a schedule in black-and-white in your court order.