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Custody and Visitation Over the Christmas Holidays

The Carroll County Family Law Court and other Maryland Courts have signaled a major change in the thinking around Christmas and holiday visitation. First, one needs to know where the philosophy has been to know where it is going.

In the past the standard thinking of custody and visitation has been to alternate holidays between parents. That is nothing new and I don’t think anything new is on the horizon there. Yet some Westminster Judges and Family Law Masters have called a formerly “sacred cow” into question.

Alternating holidays translated into the alternation of Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and Halloween. Then Thanksgiving and Christmas enter the end of the years’ holiday picture. Alternate them? Treat them like the other holidays?

Well, in years past 90% plus parents and judges agreed the following is appropriate: Christmas is treated as “Christmas A” and “Christmas B.” The thinking is that parents place the premium on when the child(ren) wake up Christmas morning over all other Christmas and Thanksgiving times.

Thus it has been protocol that a parent gets Thanksgiving Day, then the other parent gets December 24th (Christmas Eve) in the afternoon until December 25th (Christmas Day) around noon through December 26th. This schedule rotates such that both parents get part of Christmas day but the one who did not get Thanksgiving gets the coveted Christmas wake up.

Sure some people make it easy and one parent always prefers Christmas Even for whatever reason. Also, some parents live so far apart the split Christmas is not feasible so something else gets set up. When that works… it’s a beautiful thing. Everybody wins, but traditionally everybody wants some time on December 25th every year. The solution has historically been the Christmas A-B split I mentioned above.

Yet, recently some judges have deemed it hectic or even dangerous to have kids driving around on Christmas Day. One Westminster Judge commented that it detracted from the kids’ Christmas; opening presents, then getting torn away from the toys to travel around.

This “don’t split Christmas Day” is thinking is something I DO NOT AGREE WITH. Yet I must confess thinking, as a child, after getting a bunch of new presents it was a bummer to pack up and go see other relatives. Yet, I think it is different when you know a whole new pile is waiting at your destination?

So, be aware a growing trend in Family Law is that one parent gets Christmas and one just does not? Forewarned is forearmed. As always, the best idea is to work it out without court or before court and just tell the judge or family law master what you agreed on before he even makes a decision.

Tim Conlon, Esquire for The Custody Place

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