Child Custody On Holidays

By Orlando Family Law Attorney Eduardo J. Mejias

Practicing Exclusively Family Law Since 2011

Holiday time-sharing of child custody works in a different way from time-sharing during the rest of the year.  And many family law clients harbor misconceptions about how it works.  Here is how and why it is different:

Establishing What Is Considered A Holiday 

As part of a parenting plan, we must establish what times of the year constitute “holidays”.  The obvious ones include Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. However, most parenting plans also provide special schedules for the children’s spring and summer school breaks.

Other holidays that parents may account for in their parenting plans include Halloween, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Independence Day.  In fact, the parenting plan form approved by the Florida Supreme Court contains a checklist that includes the aforementioned holidays, as well as a few others. None of these holidays are actually required to be designated as such, yet most litigating parents will set aside at least a few of them for separate time-sharing arrangements.

Why Holiday Custody Time Sharing Is Different

Florida appellate courts have deemed that a family law judge commits an abuse of discretion by awarding unequal holiday time-sharing without an express finding as to why it would not be in the children’s best interests. Todd v. Todd-Guilliaume, 972 So. 2d 1003, 1006 (Fla. 4th DCA 2008).  And family law judges understand that holidays carry an emotional significance beyond the ordinary day-to-day schedule, and that most children should share those bonding opportunities equally with both parents.

Therefore, absent extraordinary circumstances, both parents are entitled to roughly 50% time-sharing during holiday periods, even when the time-sharing during the rest of the years is far from 50-50. In other words, even the “every other weekend” parent will almost certainly be entitled to having Christmas, Thanksgiving, Spring and Summer school breaks equally apportioned.

How Holiday Custody Time Sharing is Decided

How the holidays are split equally is usually reserved for the mediation table. No statute or case law dictates how exactly these breaks from school are to be distributed.

A common arrangement includes rotating the Thanksgiving and Spring breaks in alternate years, while splitting the Christmas and Summer breaks in half. With parents who celebrate Christmas, one parent will usually take the first half of the children’s Christmas school vacation, up to a certain time on Christmas Day, while the other parent takes the remainder of the vacation. The parents then reverse this schedule on alternating years. Thus, each parent can wake up with the children on Christmas morning every other year.

How We Can Help

If you have questions about holiday time-sharing with your children, or any other family law issue, feel free to contact AAA Family Law at (407) 260-6001 and schedule a consultation with me by phone or at our office in Altamonte Springs.  I will listen to your family law issues.  Then I will suggest if there is any legal action needed and what the plan is the plan for that action.

Please, read the range of attorney retainer fees charged by AAA Family Law for each type of case in Family Lawyer Retainer Fees.