Holiday Access for Separated Parents

 In Family Law

As October rolls into November and the temperature drops, people are turning their minds from falling leaves and pumpkin spice everything to the fast approaching Holiday Season, including Christmas and Hanukah. Stores are already beginning to fill with trees and decorations, cards and gifts. The Holiday Season should be a time filled with joy, family and friends but for parents who are separated, it can also be a time of tension and anxiety as they try to navigate the division of the holiday schedule.

Although it may seem that there are weeks to prepare for the holidays, the time to start thinking about the holiday schedule is now. As the Holiday Season approaches, everyone gets busier and more stressed; it can become increasingly difficult to negotiate parenting time when emotions are high and time is short. The earlier you can make arrangements for how the holidays are to be spent, the better. Talking about things early will also allow more time to resolve any disputes, should parents not be able to agree.

Here a few tips on how to deal with holiday parenting time:

Plan Early

If you don’t have a Separation Agreement, the same rules apply. Speak to the other parent now about how parenting time will be shared over the holidays for this year.

If you already have a Separation Agreement, review it and discuss with the other parent the details of how time will be shared to ensure everyone is on the same page. Some Agreements are very detailed and provide specifics such as the times children will be picked up and dropped off; other Agreements are more flexible and parents will need to negotiate such details. By discussing these details early, you avoid the potential that one parent will go ahead and make plans that may not coincide with the other’s expectations, making negotiations more difficult.

Seek Legal Advice if Necessary

If you cannot agree, seek out legal advice in a timely fashion. Disputes over holiday parenting time are very common and your lawyer will be able to provide guidance on negotiating the issue with the other parent. These types of disputes are not uncommon and your lawyer may be able to suggest different schedules that you and the other parent haven’t considered. Your lawyer can also discuss with you whether court intervention is necessary to resolve the issue. Unfortunately, the courts are very busy during the holidays dealing with these types of matters and for everyone involved, particularly the children, it’s preferable to negotiate a resolution outside of court, if at all possible.

Keep Your Children’s Best Interest at the Forefront

Above all else, keep the best interests of your children in mind at all times. As hard as it may be for you to have to share part of the holidays with the other parent and to not see your children as much as you would like, remember that this adjustment is just as difficult, if not more so, for your children. It is important that they do not feel torn between two parents and understand that spending quality time with both sides of their families is important. By showing your children that you are supportive of the time they spend with the other parent, they will be able to enjoy their time guilt free.

This blog post was written by Kate Wright, a member of the Family Law, Wills and Estates and Litigation teams.  She can be reached at 613-369-0383 or at

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