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How Is Holiday Access Divided

In any Maryland custody order or agreement, you will no doubt address the issue of holidays.  The way those holidays are enumerated, defined and apportioned is often at the very crux of a custody or visitation case.  The enumeration, definition and apportionment of holidays between parents is really a question of: “what, when and who.”

First, there is the enumeration of holidays:  “WHAT is a holiday.”

When we discuss how holidays are enumerated we mean what is a “holiday?”  Take for example Halloween ?  Halloween may not be the most most in demand holiday.  It is however, the most maligned, overlooked and often contentious holiday.

Some people of specific religious faiths get offended at the very suggestion of Halloween as a holiday.  I suggest it is a “holiday” for purposes of custody and visitation cases.  I say this not based upon its merits as a celebration, but as a day that the schools, kids and their playmates acknowledge.  So for our purposes, let us consider it a holiday.

Halloween is a particularly tricky holiday (forgive the pun) because it is overlooked until it is a problem.  It is not a religious holiday.  It is not a postal holiday, a federal, state, bank or any otherwise holiday…  Yet, according to Businessweek it is a “6.9 Billion Dollars American Cultural Juggernaut.”

With so many other things to keep in mind in a custody agreement and with so many thoughts going through a person’s head when a judge makes a decision, it’s easy to overlook Halloween.  Halloween is also age sensitive.  Infants and toddlers don’t get it, pre-teens cannot be bothered with it, and teenagers are out with their friends drinking and throwing toilet paper in trees.

There is the defining of holidays:  “WHEN is a holiday.”

Even when it is considered a holiday, Halloween is one of those “holidays within a holiday” such as: Christmas Morning, the 4th of July at night and 11:59pm on New Years Eve.  When it comes to such time constrained holidays make it count!

As discussed above, Christmas is both a time and a day centered holiday. In my experience, Christmas is best treated as two holidays: Christmas Part I and Christmas Part II.  For young children, the highlight of christmas is usually gift giving and the celebration with extended family.

In some families, the central event is Christmas eve and in some families it is Christmas morning.  Either way, the afternoon of December 24th through the afternoon of December 25th is often acknowledged as the “prime time.”

The bifurcated Christmas can work in conjunction with Thanksgiving whereby; the parent who gets Thanksgiving Day gets December 25th in afternoon through the 26th and the parent who did not get Thanksgiving gets the 24th of December through the morning of the 25th.  (Note:The splitting of the break from school is a separate issue best addressed in another article on vacations.)

The 4th of July can be divided in a similar fashion such as separately allocating the picnic part of the day from the fireworks part of the day.  Though sometimes parents may require the children to be off the road after a certain time on December 31st, New Years eve is almost never an issue.

There is the allocation of holidays:  “WHO gets the holiday.”

One is beyond help if you cannot agree that Mothers get Mother’s Day and Fathers get Father’s Day.  That’s it.  Mind you, I have heard blithe, straight faced parents lobby against the concept  but only in very narrow circumstances such as geographic impossibility.  In 99.9% of all cases if you do not agree Father’s Day is with Father and Mother’s Day is with Mother, just don’t do it in your “out loud voice.”

With respect to the other holidays enumerate them and alternate them with specificity such as “in odd years Father gets X,Y and Z etc.  You don’t have to do it that way but in my opinion the odd and even spell out is best.

It’s fine to say “alternate” the holidays but what if a parent cancels? Reschedules?  Does it pick back up as though that did not happen?  Do you have an odd number of holidays so that it works out to a rotation?

Sure these questions seem simple. They are BUT, when your ex is on the porch Christmas eve in the snow, there is a house full of relatives who all have an opinion on the subject, you hate the new spouse who he is there to pick up the kids with, and you have all had too much eggnog:  “odd and even” seems more clear.

Tim Conlon, Esquire for The Custody Place


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