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.

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.