Co-Parenting Schedule During Holidays and On Special Occasions

The holidays may be in the rear-view, but if you didn’t already have an established co-parenting schedule set up, chances are, you found out first-hand how challenging it can be to have gatherings and celebrate special occasions for separated parents.

As co-parents, you likely already have a regular parenting schedule that hopefully works fairly well. A holiday parenting schedule, though, is a little different. This sort of schedule refers to any holidays or celebrations, ranging from statutory holidays to religious holidays, birthdays, spring break, and more. A lot of couples do not think to discuss these dates and moments when assembling their separation and co-parenting agreements while going through them with a divorce lawyer in Toronto. Still, it’s evidently a very important topic.


Why You Should Discuss a Co-Parenting Holiday Schedule

Milestones like the winter holidays, birthdays, graduations, and others are important dates. No parent wants to miss out on that quality time with their child. There may also be some family traditions you want to pass down, particularly during the holidays. If you have to share these milestones with a co-parent, conflict can erupt fairly quickly if you don’t have a plan.


How Co-Parents Can Divide and Share Holiday Time with A Child

A few common arrangements can be used as a starting point when trying to negotiate a co-parenting holiday schedule.

  • Celebrate together. Chances are you’ve reached this point of wanting a co-parenting schedule for the holidays because you don’t wish to celebrate special occasions al That said, if you are on good terms with your ex, it still might be something to consider for the extra-special times of year or events when another arrangement isn’t doable.
  • Split the occasion in half. A popular approach is to split the day in half. This means a child spends half the day with one parent and then, the other parent has them for the rest of the time. This does take some planning to do as you don’t want to spend a lot of time travelling, nor do you want a parent purposefully or accidentally taking up more time than what was allotted.
  • Celebrate the holiday twice. An easy way to resolve a dispute on co-parenting a holiday is to celebrate it twice. For example, for a birthday or Christmas, one parent might celebrate it with the child on the day itself while the other will celebrate it on the day before or the day after. This is a great way for a parent to work in their own holiday traditions and get the time they want with their child.
  • Assign fixed holidays yearly. Divide up the holidays so that each parent celebrates specific holidays with the child every year. This is great if there are certain holidays you may think are not as important as others or if you don’t want to overspend as co-parents on your child.
  • Alternative holidays every other year. The last approach is to alternate every other year. Assign a parent Christmas this year, and then, next year, the other parent gets to spend Christmas with the child. This can be done with Thanksgiving, 3-day weekends, and the like. This way, you’re guaranteed not to miss spending a holiday with your child more than one year in a row. It also provides some private time on specific occasions to plan a non-child-related holiday celebration.


Holidays to Include in A Co-Parenting Schedule

  • Birthdays
  • Mother’s Day
  • Father’s Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas Eve and
    Christmas Day
  • New Year’s Eve and
    New Year’s Day
  • Easter
  • Spring Break
  • Canada Day
  • Halloween

How Courts Rule On Holiday Parenting Schedules

If a major dispute arises, a parent might wish to forward an urgent motion. To succeed, generally, parties are not permitted to bring motions for temporary relief prior to attending their first case conference.

However, according to Family Law Rules, temporary orders can be granted prior to attending a case conference in situations of urgency, hardship, or if a case conference isn’t required. For example, this would mean if there was a safety concern, threats of harm, dire financial circumstances, if a party will be severely prejudiced, or if there are domestic violence, criminal activity, mental health troubles, or anger management issues requiring immediate attention.

How a court is likely to rule will evidently depend on many factors. The primary consideration is always to act in the child’s best interests. A judge will not rule according to what parents think is fair to this degree.

Past family traditions are also not a significant factor. In fact, the courts assume that upon separation, any and all past family traditions are no longer applicable to the new family structure. Instead, the courts look at a child’s relationship with their parents and what arrangement would best maximize time with both parents. A lot goes into these judgments, and it is always a risk that taking matters like this to court will not bring you the result you want.

How to Avoid Going to Court to Rule On Co-Parenting Holidays

It can save time, money, and resources to avoid bringing an urgent motion before the courts. However, unless it’s your only option, consider the best approach to negotiating a co-parenting schedule for these special occasions. A last-minute dispute or a part of your holiday lead-up, unfortunately, spent in court can ruin the milestone for some parents and even the child.

Ideally, you do not want to approach it last minute to do this. Communicate in advance and seek legal advice if needed. Both co-parents have to be flexible. A parenting schedule that’s agreed upon today may not apply next year. Amendments can happen. When deciding the schedule for a specific occasion, also keep in mind the needs and preferences of the child. Kindness and goodwill also go a long way in reducing conflict between co-parents as well.

Understandably, this can be an emotional matter. A parent may feel like their losing time and traditions missing out on a specific moment. Instead, parental experts recommend looking at this as an opportunity to adapt old traditions and start new ones. Be creative. Focus on this new family structure and what sort of traditions might be important to carry forward.


 What If Your Ex Refuses to Sign Travel Consent in Canada?

Holidays and child traveling with one parent internationally should be planned their trips well in advance. However, getting an ex-partner to sign child travel consent one is not always straightforward.

It’s best to start planning well in advance when it comes to permission from your ex to take children abroad and get your lawyer involved if you’re having issues to avoid a time crunch as the departure date approaches. There are three main situations when parents struggle to obtain child travel consent from a former partner.

Each one requires a different approach, but if one parent has concerns, it’s important that certain steps are taken to address them. 

Fear of abduction

The non-travelling parent may have valid concerns about their ex-partner absconding with the children and failing to return.

He says courts are likely to treat these fears more seriously when the planned trip includes stops in countries that are not signatories to the Hague Convention, an international agreement that provides a mechanism for the return of abducted children to their home countries.

In one of his own cases, Simple Divorce lawyer represented a parent whose former partner left Canada with the couple’s two-year-old daughter during what seemed like a routine separation case. However, things got more complicated when the travelling parent arrived in India, a country that is not a signatory to the Hague Convention. To this day, the travelling parent has not returned to Canada.

Access disruption

Another concern parents have is that the vacation will disrupt their own access time with the child. This type of objection frequently arises when a trip is planned on short notice or the non-travelling parent is only advised close to the departure date.


High-conflict cases abound in family law and vacation plans can increase tensions. Sometimes parents don’t want to consent out of spite to the other party. However, parents do have options when their requests for consent are met either with silence or hostility. It is possible to go to court and obtain an order from a judge allowing you to travel, thereby dispensing with the requirement for consent.

Again, as lawyers, we would recommend that clients let us know as soon as they are having issues because you don’t want to be crunched for time if you do end up needing a court order.


Find A Lawyer to Assist with Your Co-Parenting Holiday Schedule

Minimize stress and clarify the expectation for major milestones, holidays, birthdays, and celebrations. Speak with a highly-skilled, experienced lawyer today who can assist you in prioritizing your child’s needs and help you explore your options in finding the best co-parenting holiday schedule for you.