Time to Think About Holiday Parenting Time
As school starts and autumn begins, so does thinking about the major upcoming holidays. While some may cringe at the idea of thinking about turkey’s, eggnog and candy canes, for parents who share time with their children, now is the time you should be thinking about the holidays and what your parenting time will look like this year.
Michigan holiday schedule
When parties with children separate or get divorced in the state of Michigan, there is a standard holiday schedule that is usually ordered that allows for equal holiday time for throughout the calendar year. This schedule rotates with one parent getting certain holidays in even-numbered years and the remaining holidays in the odd-numbered years, with each County preparing their own schedules of what the division will be. The goal in setting holiday time is to ensure that the parents do not have the same holiday two years in a row. The exception is Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with mom always getting the kids on Mother’s Day and Dad always having the children on Father’s Day.
Counties can modify schedule
While the state of Michigan does have a standard schedule in place, individual counties in the state can modify the schedule if they so choose. In Hillsdale county, for example, the holiday parenting time schedule is as follows:
Easter - From Good Friday at 6 p.m. until Easter Sunday at 6 p.m.
Memorial Day/Labor Day - From the Friday preceding the holiday at 6 p.m. until the Monday of the holiday at 6 p.m.
July 4 - From 9 a.m. on the holiday until July 5th at 9 a.m.
Thanksgiving - The Wednesday preceding the holiday at 6 p.m. until the Sunday following the holiday at 6 p.m.
Mother’s Day - The mother shall have every Mother’s Day from the evening before Mother’s Day until 6 p.m. the evening of Mother’s Day
Father’s Day - The father shall have every Father’s Day from 6 p.m. the evening before Father’s Day until 6 p.m. the evening of Father’s Day.
Holiday parenting time for Christmas in Hillsdale County may look different than other counties as it extends for all of the children’s Christmas break from school and is split in two for both parents to have a portion of the break.
First half of Christmas Break - From the evening the children are released from school at 6 p.m. until Christmas morning at 10 a.m.
Second half of Christmas break - From Christmas morning at 10 a.m. until the evening the children are to return to school at 6 p.m.
Spring break is also included in holiday parenting time in Hillsdale County.
Spring break - From the evening the children are released from school at 6 p.m. until the evening before the children are to return to school at 6 p.m.
In a lot of other counties, the single day holidays, like Memorial Day, are only for that one day, not the entire weekend. So, a parent should look at their specific order to determine what time they are actually granted.
What if I want a change?
While there is a standard holiday parenting schedule for the state of Michigan and modified ones for each county in the state, this schedule is just the fallback for parents to use. As in standard parenting time, the parents can set a schedule that works best for them and the needs of their children. This is true for holidays as well. If there is an agreement to modify time, this should be done in writing so as there is no confusion.
As an example, if dad always celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve, not Christmas Day, then the parents can work out an arrangement where dad always has the kids on Christmas Eve and mom always has the kids on Christmas Day.
If, however, parents can not agree, then the schedule for your county or the state is enforced.
Does holiday time supersede standard parenting time?
If a holiday falls during your standard parenting time, the holiday schedule will supersede that time. For instance, if it is dad’s weekend to have the kids, but it is Easter weekend and this year mom has the kids on Easter, mom will have the kids instead of dad. So this could potentially mean that dad would not have the children for three weekends in a row.
This can cause anger and animosity between the parents. Parents should be sure to look ahead at what the holidays will look like for the entire year and communicate with the other parent so there are no surprises when the next holiday comes up.
What about special circumstances?
Holiday parenting time schedules are not set in stone. Just because you and your ex divided the holidays a certain way last year, does not mean it has to be the exact same way this year. Things change, circumstances change, opportunities come up.
If this year Grandma wants to take the kids to Disney World for spring break, but it is dad’s year to have the kids, changes can be made. Talk with the other parent to see if some other arrangement can be made. If mom wants to take the kids to visit family out of the state for Christmas, but it falls during dad’s time to have the kids, see if something can be worked out.
Talk it out
Communication is so important with holiday parenting time and parenting time in general. Along with looking ahead to see who has which holidays and if there are any potential conflicts or problems, talking about parenting time with your ex is key to helping prevent anger and hurt feelings.
If there is going to be a change from the set schedule, or the individualized plan you worked out prior to finalizing your divorce, make sure that change is in writing. While you may verbally agree to allow dad to pick up the kids early or switch switch half of Christmas break, when it comes to enforcing that change, it is best to have it in writing. This does not have to be complicated - a simple text message will suffice.
If the child refuses
A child refusing to go with a parent during their parenting time is not isolated to the holidays and is the cause of a lot of the problems that parents face in co-parenting situations. So what can you do? This is a tricky subject since there is a lot that depends on what can and cannot happen. The custodial parent HAS TO encourage the children to go with the other parent and reiterate that it is that parent’s time, that the other parent loves them and wants to spend time with them. You cannot tell your child he/she does not have to go, no matter the age.
The tricky part is forcing a child to go with the custodial parent. When a child is young, let’s say as an example, 5 years old, the parents can pick the child up, NICELY, and put them in the other parents car or have them get out of the car and walk on their own. NEVER pull or yank the child from the car; speak with the child and in most cases the younger children will go by themselves. However, older children and teens can be trickier. If an older child or teenager is refusing to go with their parent during the court appointed time, the same concept applies. The custodial parent has to tell the child to go with the non-custodial parent and encourage the relationship, however, you cannot force a teenager to go or to physically put them in a vehicle. Again, talk to the child and see what is going on and discuss the matter with the other parent.
Law enforcement can be called, but they have no power to force someone to go for parenting time and usually they will just document they were called to that location for a parenting time issue. They then usually advise that they need to address the issue with the Friend of the Court or the Court itself.
If a parent is telling the children they do not have to go or are in some way interfering with the parenting time, remedies can be had through Friend of the Court or by filing motions with the Court.
Do what is best for your kids
While you may no longer care for or even get along with your ex, it is important to not bring that into your child’s relationship with the other parent. Keep your relationship with your ex separate from your child’s relationship with the other parent. Don’t bash each other in front of your kids. Your child still loves the other parent. Don’t destroy that.
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