Child Custody During Holidays and School Breaks

Posted by Josh Valentine | Jul 05, 2019

Kids often look forward to holidays and school breaks as a chance to go on vacation, spend more time with friends, and get away from school for a little while. However, for parents sharing custody, these times may be a challenge when having to put the child on a plane to the other parent, cut short vacation plans, or otherwise accommodate a change in schedule. 

The child custody and visitation agreement should provide for the visitation schedule for each parent. This generally includes consideration of custody and visitation during changes in the regular schedule, including: 

  • Vacation Time
  • Holidays
  • School Breaks 

The parents generally make this determination before the child custody orders are signed by the court so the parents will not have to keep coming back to the court whenever they want a change in the visitation schedule. However, when the parents cannot agree on custody during a holiday, they may have to go to court for a modification or to enforce the agreement. 

Plan for Holidays and School Breaks

When making a child visitation schedule, parents should account for all holidays, special dates, and school breaks that may involve a change in the standard day-to-day or week-to-week schedule. In addition to more major holidays celebrated in the U.S. like Thanksgiving and Christmas, planned schedules should include:  

  • Child's birthday,
  • Religious holidays,
  • School in-service or teacher prep days,
  • Parents' birthdays,
  • 3-day weekends,
  • Spring break,
  • Winter break,
  • Summer break,
  • School days off, and
  • Parents' workdays off.

Options for Sharing Custody and Visitation During Holidays

There are a number of practical options parents can choose when considering time during holidays and vacations that do not require having to take the matter to court. The court may be hesitant to take up the issue when there is already a custody and visitation order in place and instead send the matter to mediation for the parents to come up with their own solution. 

Alternating Holidays

The most straightforward (and one of the most common) options for holiday time is to alternate every year. For example, the child can spend Thanksgiving with Parent A and Christmas with Parent B. Next year, the parents can swap the holidays. This way, the parents can both spend important holidays with their children every other year. 

Splitting Holidays

Sharing longer vacations and holidays can work by splitting up the time between parents. For example, if the child is out of school for Winter Break from December 19th to January 2nd, the child can stay with one parent for the first week and the other parent during the second week. 

If certain holidays are especially important for the parents, they can even split the day, like Christmas morning with one parent and Christmas dinner with the other.  

Going Off the Calendar for Holidays  

Depending on the holiday, events can be celebrated on any day of the year. Especially with younger children, they may not care if they celebrate on a specific date. One parent can celebrate Easter on the Saturday before Easter and the other parent can celebrate on Easter Sunday. There is no reason the parents cannot even make up their own holidays to celebrate, like a half-birthday or Christmas in July.

Designating Holidays

Some parents may want to spend specific holidays with the child, especially if that holiday is important for the parent or the parent's side of the family, or for the parent's religious beliefs. If the parents can agree to designate certain holidays, they can assign fixed holidays to one parent.

Alternating School Year Plan 

Another option for parents with a child in school is to alternate the custody and visitation plan that they have during the school year. For example, if Parent A gets visitation of the child every weekend during the school year, the parents could switch that schedule so that the child stays with Parent A during the week and Parent B gets weekend visits. 

Out of Town Vacations  

Taking a vacation out-of-town with your child can also require making changes to the regular parenting schedule. If parents alternate weeks or weekends, it can limit any travel unless the parents agree to modify the visitation. The most popular times for taking vacations out of the area are during longer breaks like summer break or winter break. 

Equal Vacation Time

The simplest way to provide for a longer trip is to give each parent an equal or equivalent amount of extended time. For example, if one parent wants to take the child to Florida for a 10-day trip, the other parent should be able to get a minimum 10-day period to spend with the child. 

Modifying the Parenting Schedule

When the parents cannot come to an agreement on changes to the schedule for holidays, vacations, or breaks, the parent may need to file a child custody modification petition with the court. The court may first send the issue to mediation to have the parents work it out. If mediation is not successful, the parents may have to attend a hearing where the court will make a decision on the proposed modifications. Generally, the outcome is better for the parents and the child when they can come to an agreement without having the court make the ultimate decision

Holiday and Break Modifications as the Child Gets Older 

As the child gets older, the parents may consider changes to the holiday and school break schedules. Older kids may want to spend more time with friends during breaks or holidays. Interests like sports, performing arts, or learning programs may mean the child wants to attend a camp, do an exchange program, or attend a summer program during their breaks. 

The child's interest in other activities generally results in spending more time with the primary custodial parent. The parents should come to an agreement to accommodate the child's growing interests and activities while balancing time spent with each parent. 

Experienced Shelby Child Custody Attorneys

Parents in a dispute over child custody during the holidays can benefit from the experienced legal advice that the skilled attorneys at Caulder & Valentine have to offer. Contact us today for a consultation.

About the Author

Josh Valentine

You could say Josh has a God-given ability for sustaining long-term relationships. He and his wife first met in elementary school and went to Gardner Webb University (GWU) together, where they tied for number 1 in their class. Then, they both started law school on the same day of their graduation and got married during their first semester. He has also known his law partner Blake Caulder since Kindergarten. Theirs is the perfect partnership. “He’s the brake; I am the accelerator,” Josh says. Both Josh and his wife attended an innovative program at Charlotte Law School that allowed them to complete law school in two years instead of the typical three. His wife graduated and passed the North Carolina bar at age 20, becoming one of the youngest attorneys in the state. He readily admits she’s smarter than him. Of course, Josh went on to pass the North Carolina State Bar himself and later the South Carolina State Bar. While in school, he was Associate Editor of the Law Review and received accolades like Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society membership, Order of the Crown, Pro Bono Honors, CALI Awards (highest grade). In his career as a lawyer, he has been admitted to the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, is a member of the American Association of Premier DUI Attorneys, and completed training for DWI Detection & Standardized Field Sobriety Testing. Josh has also been named to the Top 40 Under 40 for Criminal Defense by The National Trial Lawyers, the Business North Carolina 2019 Legal Elite for Criminal Defense, and the 10 Best Attorneys for Client Satisfaction by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys three years in a row (2016, 2017, and 2018). Community involvement has been important to Josh all his life. In high school, he participated in building a Holocaust museum that has become internationally regarded. He and his wife are actively engaged in animal rescue, which currently means seven cats and two kittens. He served in prison ministry and assisted with fundraiser banquets there, and he provides pro bono and reduced fee legal services to those in need. As if all of that weren’t enough, Josh also mentors high risk youth and helps with his church’s youth group. He participates in other community volunteer projects involving construction, remodeling, drywall, painting, and landscaping. He’s an active student of the Bible and has traveled to Israel, Brazil, and Europe for mission work. No one can say Josh isn’t a well-rounded individual. In his spare time, he likes to play softball, basketball, and tennis, and he can play the piano and trombone. Sometimes on weekends, believe it or not, he enjoys pouring and finishing concrete with friends who own a concrete and grading business. In his law practice, Josh has made it a point to develop positive relationships with officers, clerks, and district attorneys, which has proven invaluable in delivering positive results for his clients. It’s important to him to both listen to his clients and fight for them. Law enforcement officers have important responsibilities to keep our communities safe and uphold the law, but one of the responsibilities of attorneys is to make sure officers do their job correctly. Josh considers it his job to hold them accountable for their actions. Josh is a person of deep faith. He knows that the established order of our universe and strength of America’s Judeo-Christian influenced court system is built on God’s word. His passion to serve each client with innovation, excellence and integrity is a byproduct of his faith. When asked why he became a lawyer, Josh says, “All through my life, I have personally witnessed family members and very close friends endure divorce, child custody battles, bankruptcy, civil lawsuits, and even fraudulent criminal accusations. I both saw and experienced the stress such events can place on an individual, and I realized that everyone, at some point in their life, needs hope, comfort, and encouragement. In each one of those situations, the person who was best situated to provide that vital support was their lawyer. So that’s why I became an attorney. I understand what you are going through, and I’m here to help you. Our office is focused on meeting your needs and guiding you through what may be the most difficult time of your life.” Education: Charlotte School of Law J.D., Magna Cum Laude Class Rank – 21 of 328 Associate Editor of Charlotte School of Law Law Review Certification and Concentration in Employment Law Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society Order of the Crown Pro Bono Honors CALI Awards (Highest Grade)—Lawyering Process I and Contracts I Full Scholarship Gardner-Webb University B.S. in Accounting, Summa Cum Laude Distinguished Senior Student Award – Highest GPA Alpha Sigma Lambda National Honorary Society Bar Admissions: North Carolina State Bar