Reduce the Stress of Holiday Parenting

By Thomas J. Jenkins Esq.

Unbelievably, the holiday season is once again upon us. This is a time when one reflects upon family more than other times of the year; a time when we look to old and comfortable memories of our childhood. Unfortunately, when one is faced with a breakup of a marriage, or other relationship where children are involved, these times may be difficult and painful. As practicing matrimonial attorneys with extensive experience in family law, I, along with my partners Mary Cay Trace and AllynMarie Smedley, can tell you that these times are difficult on your children as well. We all want to spend as much holiday time with our children as possible. And, unwittingly, often parents add to the stress on the children by arguing over how and where the children will be spending time during the holiday season. One way to avoid a portion of the stress upon the children is to have some certainty as to when and where the children will enjoy holidays.

The courts routinely defer to the holiday schedules agreed upon by the parents. That is, where there is an agreement, the courts will not second guess the parents who are deemed to be acting in the best interest of their children. Too often, however, the parties cannot agree on how the holiday time will be spent and this becomes a traumatic experience for the families, especially children. For this reason, the Family Courts, in conjunction with the Matrimonial Bar, have devised what is often labeled a “Holidays and Special Day Parenting Time Schedule”. While not all counties follow the same schedule, the court has come up with a “bottom line” schedule where the parents cannot agree. In fact, the holidays are alternated annually with one parent enjoying a particular holiday in odd calendar years and the other parent enjoying the same holiday in even 
calendar years.