Once physical and legal custody are agreed upon, the holiday schedule should be easier to determine. Planning the holiday schedule should not be given too much attention until the child is 3-5 years of age and is aware of traditions and celebrations.
Think about the holidays that are important to you, the holidays that are important to the other parent and with which family your child enjoys the most deeply rooted traditions. This requires that you step away from the negative feelings you have towards the other parent, step away from your family’s preferences and think only of your child’s best interest. You may need the assistance of a counselor or therapist to help you see what is best for your children. If your family puts on a significant Thanksgiving celebration and an insignificant Christmas celebration and the other parent’s family does just the opposite then it should be clear how to divide up these holidays. Remember, you want your child to enjoy the holidays too without the stress of being shuttled from one parent’s household to the other without time to relax and indulge in the festivities. Which begs the next point, if you and the other parent dedicate the same amount of effort to each holiday then split them up in even and in odd years with, say, one parent getting Thanksgiving in odd years and Christmas in even years. Think about your children when you divide up holidays, especially, if you are splitting time between two houses on the actual day. Yes, division of holidays does impact percentage of visitation, which, in turn, may increase or decrease child support; but, you need to think beyond this and think about what is best for your child, not your pocketbook in terms of child support, in the long run.
Make your life easier by agreeing that single day holidays should go to the parent who would normally have that day, or weekend, with the child. If you have visitation on a school holiday, have to work and the other parent is not working then let the other parent do something special with your child. It is very sad to see, but it happens, where the working parent with visitation will then deny the nonworking parent without visitation the holiday simply because it is “their day” and then leave the child with a babysitter.
Always give Mother’s Day to the mother, Father’s Day to the father, and each parent his or her respective birthday. With regard to the child’s birthday, either jointly throw a party, give even years to one parent and odd to the other, split the day or let the parent with visitation on that day celebrate the birthday with the child and the other parent plan a celebration for another day. For a chart to help you divide up the holidays, see the following link to California Judicial Counsel form: https://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/fl341c.pdf.
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