One of the most hotly contested issues in a South Carolina divorce is often how parents should divide the holidays with children between themselves. South Carolina law provides that there are two types of custody: physical custody (designating which parent the child lives with the majority of the time) and legal custody (designating decision-making authority for parents). Parties will need to discuss allocation of parenting time, including consideration of holidays, in coming to their final physical custody negotiations. This post will outline several considerations parents should take into account when determining the best way to maximize their children’s happiness, as well as their own, during the holiday season.
What Holidays Should You Divide In Your Parenting Agreement?
Before negotiating your holiday schedule with your spouse, it is helpful to make a full list of holidays you should divide. Some common holidays that may be missed include:
- New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day
- School Holidays: These include Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day, Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, and Labor Day. Many parents opt to extend Sunday parenting time to Monday for long weekends where the child has school off.
- Major Religious Holidays: These include Easter, Christmas, Hanukkah, Rosh Hashanah, and Passover. If one parent observes these holidays and the other does not, you can consider letting the parent who observes the holiday have parenting time and giving the other parent a “make-up day.”
- 4th of July
- Thanksgiving: Thanksgiving is usually the easiest holiday to split between parents since children often get a longer break from school. Parents have the option of splitting the long weekend so that both parents get to enjoy time during the holiday with their children.
- Parents’ Birthdays: Parents often negotiate having the children for their birthday each year.
- Mother’s Day/ Father’s Day: Similar to birthdays, mom typically gets Mother’s Day every year and dad gets Father’s Day.
- Kids’ Birthdays
For each of the holidays above, you should be sure to note what times pickups/drop-offs will occur to help ensure there is as seamless transition as possible.
What Possibilities Are there for Dividing the Holidays?
There are several possible arrangements parents may want to consider as a starting point to dividing holidays between themselves.
- Even-Odd Rotation: The most common parents divide holidays is on an odd-even basis, where one parent gets the holiday on odd years and the other parent gets the holiday on even years. This ensures both parents get to spend each holiday with the kids, even if it is not every year. However, this schedule requires both parents to frequently reference their parenting schedule to ensure they know what holidays they get each year.
- Splitting Holidays: Sometimes if parents want holidays every year, they will try to split the holiday down the middle so both parents get to enjoy them. Although it gives each parent time with the children, it often causes unnecessary rush, especially if the parents live far away.
- Sharing Holidays: If you and your spouse get along after the divorce and can put aside your differences during the holiday, it is always a possibility to try to share some of the holidays, particularly major ones like Thanksgiving or Christmas.
- Designate Alternative Dates for Holiday Celebration: Particularly if the children are younger, parents sometimes try to designate alternate days as holidays. For example, one parent can always get December 23 to celebrate Christmas.
- Designate Each Parent a Specific Holiday: Under this schedule, parents get the same holidays every year. This is typically ideal for couples that want consistency every year or couples who are disorganized and will not remember to follow an odd-even or split schedule.
How Should You Behave During The Holidays?
With the stress that typically accompanies holidays, parents sometimes lose sight of the holidays and behave irrationally. Below a are some tips to bear in mind during the holidays:
- Schedule in advance. To try to minimize potential drama during pick-ups, communicate with your spouse ahead of time to confirm timing and location of holiday exchanges. Also, as noted above, make sure you and your ex are on the same page regarding transportation of the children.
- Do not put your kids in the middle. Not only do courts frown upon alienation, but it does not help your children enjoy the holiday. If you bad mouth your ex-spouse in front of your kids, they may end up feeling guilty or worse, resenting your ex-spouse.
- Don’t turn holidays into a competition. Trying to outdo your ex-spouse in holiday fun and spirit will likely just end up adding unnecessary stress to your holiday. You will end up fixating on whether the holiday is perfect rather than actually enjoying yourself.
- Make sure to be flexible. Unexpected things often pop up during the holiday season. Maybe your ex-spouse got your kid the bicycle she’s been dying to have and she wants to bring it to your house for parenting time. Maybe an unexpected cousin dropped by and your kid wants to spend a bit more time at your ex-spouse’s home. Try to remember the importance of making sure your child is happy and do not blow unexpected events out of proportion.
- Act like it’s any other holiday. If your divorce was finalized recently, you may be tempted to fall back on excuses like “we aren’t doing that because your mom/dad left me.” This will set a negative precedent for future holidays with your children.
- Make new traditions. One thing to consider to helping your children through the transition by creating new traditions between you and your children for your holiday time.
Contact an Experienced South Carolina Custody Attorney Today!
Negotiating a holiday schedule that works for you and your ex-spouse can be a difficult process. To help you to understanding parenting schedules and what your rights are in regards to custody after divorce, the team at the Elliott Frazier Law Firm, LLC is only a phone call away. Our skilled family law attorneys in Greenville can help you talk through the possibilities for dividing parenting time during the holidays. Contact us today for a case evaluation!
Angela Elliot Frazier is a Family Law Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. She graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law, and has been practicing law for 14 years now. Angela Frazier believes in helping you through one of the most stressful times of your life. Learn more about her experience by clicking here.