Child Custody and Visitation – Holiday Timeshare: What Can I Expect?

For most litigants in San Diego, divorce is a heart-breaking and devastating process. Much of the fear, anxiety and turmoil are created by the many “unknowns” a divorcing spouse faces. If a person is getting divorced for the first time, he or she generally has no idea what to expect with regard to finances and child custody and visitation. Local divorce attorneys can provide a road map of the divorce process but cannot offer solid guarantees for the future. In the beginning of a divorce case where custody and visitation is at issue, many parents ask: “What is normal?” Although there is no general consensus of “normal” in family law, a number of arrangements have become “typical”.

With the holidays approaching many divorcing parents are anxious to find out how that first holiday season should be handled. Every set of facts is unique and how the holidays proceed is generally dependent on the relationship between the parties. In some cases the parents are proceeding with an amicable divorce and agree to share the holidays together with their children. Although this might not be the most comfortable arrangement for the parents, it reinforces stability for the children during this tumultuous time. If the parents cannot get along, it may not be advisable to spend holidays together in the presence of the children. Another alternative for parties capable of working productively together is to share the children on each holiday. For example, the children might spend Christmas morning with their mother opening gifts and then later go with their father to enjoy Christmas dinner.

If you are a parent looking to arrange a more long-term child-sharing schedule for the holidays, you might consider the following options:

Alternate Holidays Every Year

Frequently parents set up an “alternating system” in order to fairly distribute holiday time. In this type of system one parent will have the children on certain holidays (for example Christmas and Easter) in even numbered years and have the children on the other holidays (for example Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve) in odd numbered years. The other parent will have the children on the same holidays alternating years. By breaking up the holidays the parties ensure they both have some holiday time with the children each year.

Exchange Holidays Within the Year

In some cases, the parties have different holiday priorities and are able to agree to a holiday schedule wherein they have time with the children on all holidays which are important to them every year. This is possible in situations where one parent celebrates different holidays (Hanukkah) than the other (Christmas). Some families emphasize Christmas Eve while others focus on Christmas Day. The most obvious example of this option would be where the children spend Mother’s Day with their mother, and Father’s Day with their father. Parents are encouraged to discuss these possibilities when determining an ongoing holiday schedule. In all cases, if a holiday schedule exists, it does take precedent over the general timeshare plan.

Please contact us if you are considering a divorce from your spouse, a legal separation, or have questions regarding child custody and visitation. Nancy J. Bickford is the only attorney in San Diego County representing clients in divorces, who is a Certified Family Law Specialist (CFLS) and who is actively licensed as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Don’t settle for less when determining your rights. Call 858-793-8884 in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, North County or San Diego.

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