It is important to have a clearly worded court order specifying your regular parenting time and shared holidays. In high conflict situations, it is extremely important to use precise wording that will not leave any room for interpretation. A poorly worded order can lead to unnecessary conflict between parents.
For Christmas, parents usually share the holiday equally on an alternating schedule:
- In odd numbered years, one parent will have the first half of the Christmas break and the other parent will have the second half of the break.
- In even numbered years, the other parent will have the first half of the Christmas break and the one parent will have the second half of the break.
For schedules that are shared equally, the exchange usually takes place halfway through at noon. The parent ending their time may be required to drop the children off at the other parent’s home or at some other specified location. The details of the exchange should be clearly specified in the court order.
But, when does the Christmas break start?
When preparing the court order, it is important to avoid making assumptions. Some court orders may reference the Friday before Christmas when determining when the Christmas holiday begins. In these situations, a court order may state:
- The Winter Break vacation period will start at the end of school on Friday prior to Christmas and end at the start of school after New Years Day.
Assuming that the school break will start on the Friday before Christmas can lead to arguments if the school break actually begins midweek. One parent may want to start their holiday time on the Friday before Christmas despite the remaining operational school days before the start of the school break. The other parent may want the holiday time divided based on when the children are actually on their holiday. When parents are unable to decide when the holiday begins, they usually disagree with when the halfway mark is for the exchange.
If the parents are unable to work together to make a child-orientated decision, one parent usually ends up making the unilateral decision to exercise their holiday time based on their interpretation of the court order. The other parent then retaliates by involving police officers, lawyers or having other third parties to intervene. Based on this, it would be a mistake to assume that the division of breaks is common sense. When drafting a court order, try and provide as much direction as possible. For example, a court order could specify:
- The first half of the Christmas break will start at the end of school on the last operational school day before Christmas. The exchange shall occur at noon halfway through the break as determined by the school calendar. The second half of the break shall end at the start of school on the first operational day in the new year.
If you need a parenting order or if you want to change your current order, we strongly recommend working with a professional. An experienced family lawyer, a mediator or a parenting coordinator can help you identify and avoid potential issues before they arise. Our team can refer you to a variety of qualified family-orientated professionals to assist with your parenting situation.