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Child Custody - Holiday Visitation

It’s about that time again. That time when you are rushing from one grandparent’s house to the next, trying to not forget the casserole you signed up to bring, and hoping everyone honored the $20 spending cap for gifts. Can you say stressful?


If you are currently separated from your child’s other parent, this already stressful time can be even more stressful. When going through a divorce or any breakup with children involved, a lot of people often overlook discussing the holidays and how they will split time with the kids. They either overlook it completely because they are so overwhelmed with the separation or they optimistically think, “Oh we’ll work it out when that time comes.”


Let me tell you now, you will not “work it out when that time comes.” So much can change between the time you separate and the time the holidays roll around, your co-parenting relationship may turn sour. And that’s if it started out strong to begin with. If you are thinking about filing in court (Circuit if you’re divorcing and Juvenile if you are not married), then it’s smart to look at how courts typical view holidays when attempting to work out an agreement for holiday visitation.


Under TN Code § 36-6-106, in general terms, “the court shall order a custody arrangement that permits both parents to enjoy the maximum participation possible in the life of the child…” However, this must be in line with several factors. The statute gives the court about thirteen (13) custody factors and this list ends in a catch-all “anything else that might be relevant” factor.


If you’re in the middle of a custody/visitation case and you cannot come to a agreement, it will go to a trial and in that trial, the judge is likely to split holidays “even/odd.” What that means is you simply alternate every other year. Odd-numbered years (2021, 2023, 2025) are one parent’s time to have certain holidays and even-numbered years (2022, 2024, 2026) are the other parent’s time to have certain holidays. The court has a standard list of acknowledged holidays and they are routinely defined as 6:00 p.m. on the night preceding the holiday to 6:00 p.m. the night of the holiday. Courts typically split Christmas near or on December 25th at 3:00 p.m.


What this means is if your family is unique in any way when it comes to holidays, this standard holiday schedule will be inconvenient to you. If you are long-distance from the other parent, this standard schedule will be inconvenient, if your extended family meet on a different day than the actual holiday, this standard schedule will be inconvenient. If you and your ex can negotiate out a personalized schedule, you are more likely to get something that works for both of your families when it comes to the holidays. Do you want to account for every “bank holiday” or does that just further complicate things… are the parents’ birthdays important or would you rather have a kid-free night…are there other holidays such as Kwanza that need to be addressed…? All these are reasons to think about holidays even if you are going through your divorce or breakup earlier in the year. Even if your child is not in school yet, it’s smart to go ahead and have this schedule locked down so it’s not a fight every year at an already stressful time. Worry about that casserole, not how to share time with your children.


Below is what a typical holiday schedule may look like. If this looks overwhelming to you, but helpful, then it probably is time to get something in place, and we can help with that. Give us a call at (615) 651-7386 and set a free consultation with one of our experienced family law attorneys.


C. HOLIDAY SCHEDULE AND OTHER SCHOOL FREE DAYS

Indicate if the child will be with parent in ODD or EVEN numbered years or EVERY year:

MOTHER FATHER

New Year’s Day Odd Even

Martin Luther King Day Even Odd

Presidents’ Day Odd Even

Easter Day (unless otherwise coinciding with Spring Vacation)

Odd Even

Passover Day (unless otherwise coinciding with Spring Vacation)

Even Odd

Mother’s Day Every None

Memorial Day (if no school) Odd Even

Father’s Day None None

July 4th Odd Even

Labor Day Even Odd

Halloween Odd Even

Thanksgiving Day & Friday Odd Even

Children’s Birthdays Odd Even

Other School-Free Days Odd Even


A holiday shall begin at 6:00 p.m. on the night preceding the holiday and end at 6:00 p.m. the night of the holiday, unless otherwise noted here n/a.

D. FALL VACATION (If applicable)

The day to day schedule shall apply except as follows The parties shall alternate Fall Vacation beginning with the Father having the child in even years, and the Mother having the child in odd years.

E. WINTER (CHRISTMAS) VACATION

The mother father shall have the child for the first period from the day and time school is dismissed until December 25 at 12:00 a.m. p.m. in odd-numbered years in even-numbered years every year. The other parent will have the child for the second period from the day and time indicated above until 6:00 p.m. on the evening before school resumes. The parties shall alternate the first and second periods each year.

Other agreement of the parents: n/a.

F. SPRING VACATION (If applicable)

The day-to-day schedule shall apply except as follows The parties shall alternate Spring Vacation beginning with the Mother having the child in off years and the Father having the child in even years.


G. SUMMER VACATION

The day-to-day schedule shall apply except as follows: The parents shall rotate on a week to week basis from June 01st – August 01st every year during the summer.


Is written notice required? Yes No. If so, 30 days.

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