Parenting Plans for Holidays and Vacations

Holiday schedules generally take precedence over regularly scheduled parenting time. The major holidays should be defined by both parents and alternated or shared with consideration of prior family traditions and religious beliefs, especially in the first year of separation. Whenever possible, children should continue celebrating special holidays with extended family where this has been the prior custom.

The location of both parents and their respective families should be considered in determining how holidays should be shared.

Many parents provide for the civil holidays that are celebrated on Mondays by having the child remain with whichever parent has the child for that weekend. This works out equitably except in cases where the child is scheduled to be with the same parent every Monday.

Vacation

Children benefit from extended, uninterrupted vacation time with each parent consistent with their abilities to handle separation from either parent. The length of time for each vacation period is dependent upon the age and temperament of the children, the geographic location of the vacation, the extent of shared parenting, and the availability of the parents.

Once overnights away from the home base have been successfully established, longer vacation time may be implemented. Vacation time for children less than eighteen months should be consistent with the child’s ability to tolerate extended separations from either parent. Initially, infant vacation time should not exceed three consecutive
overnights with either parent. As a child matures, both parents should have the same opportunities to vacation with their child. Many parents provide for two uninterrupted vacation weeks for children at about six years of age, increasing to four weeks by age ten. Whether or not these weeks are consecutive depends upon the circumstances of the
family.

  • To avoid undue stress on the child, parents should plan downtime for their child after travel and before they return to school.
  • Plans for vacations, holidays or other special occasions should be agreed to as early as possible to avoid last-minute conflict. Parents should establish specific dates for advance notification of summer vacation choices.
  • Consideration should be given to the relationship between vacation, holiday and regularly scheduled time. Is a two-week vacation intended to be fourteen days? If a two-week vacation involves two weekends, should an alternating weekend plan begin with the non-vacationing parent on the following weekend to avoid three or more back to back weekends with either parent?
  • Parents should not plan a vacation to conflict with the other parent’s scheduled holiday (i.e., July 4 or Labor Day) unless they agree.
  • The vacationing parent should provide the other parent with full contact information before leaving home.
  • Arrangements should be made for reasonable telephone contact between the child and the non-vacationing parent, particularly with younger children.
  • In planning vacations, parents should not take their children out of school except in special circumstances and when both parents agree.

Source: Planning for Shared Parenting – A Guide for Parents Living Apart. Published by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.