Independence Day may be the ultimate family holiday—a time for friends and relatives to gather, socialize, grill, have fun, and watch fireworks. But any family gathering always has its moments, those certain relatives that do not get along, often with in-laws. Now try and imagine that same holiday experience with a former spouse and former in-laws. For many, this is not a pretty picture.
When people divorce, courts do not expect that they will spend the holidays together just because they share custody of the children. But some families do give this a try, and for people who had an amicable divorce and still get along with their extended families, this might seem a short-term workable solution so that everyone still spends a holiday together. But in the long run, this seems a questionable approach – former spouses will have new partners, families change or patience wears thin with time. These changes will make it harder to celebrate together and make it more likely the children will see their parents fight.
But the default position of alternating the July 4th holiday every year means that one parent will not get to enjoy fireworks with the children, and for some families that can be very difficult on those left out and the children caught in the middle. Typically, the July 4th holiday runs from 5:00 pm the next non-weekend day before to 9:00 am the weekday next following. Given that wide stretch of time, families do have options beyond every other year.
Independence Day coincides with the children’s school summer vacation schedule, so you may already have a special schedule in place for the children. Nonetheless, you can override it with plans specifically for the Fourth of July. You have many options to choose from.
Give the Day to One Parent
You could designate the holiday to one parent. This is perfect if only one parent gets the day off or plans to celebrate. Your Parenting Plan would state 9:00 am on July 4 until 9:00 am on July 5. This day holiday would not alternate between parents every year. Therefore, you might consider letting the other parent spend a day with the children on July 3 or July 5 to keep things even.
Alternate the Holiday Yearly
Another option is to alternate who gets the holiday depending on whether it’s an even- or odd-numbered year. Your Parenting Plan would still state 9:00 am on July 4 until 9:00 am on July 5. This day holiday would alternate between parents every year. For example, to Mom in odd-numbered years and to Dad in even-numbered years.
Alternate All Holidays Within a Year
Similarly, you could alternate who gets the holidays within a year. If Dad had the previous holiday which is usually Memorial Day, then Mom would get the Fourth.
Split the Day
To make a schedule that allows both parents to have time with the children on July 4, you could let the children enjoy the first part of the holiday with one parent and the latter part with the other. For example, the children could be with Mom from 9:00 am until 4:00 pm and with Dad from 4:00 pm until 9:00 am on July 5.
Make it a Block of Time Holiday
Another option is to alternate who gets a few days to celebrate the holiday depending on whether it’s an even- or odd-numbered year. Your Parenting Plan would state 9:00 am on July 3 until 9:00 am on July 5. This block of time would alternate between parents every year. For example, to Mom in odd-numbered years and to Dad in even-numbered years. This would also allow a parent to travel out of town with the children for the Fourth of July.
Plan Around July 4 Festivities
Fourth of July celebrations often include parades and fireworks displays. Consider keeping your schedule as typically scheduled but allowing one parent to have the children for the parade and a lunch barbecue and the other parent to have them for dinner and fireworks.
We realize that not all families can make these options work, but it is important to note that these options exist. The goal is to reduce tension and maximize each parent’s opportunity to spend some quality time with the children on July 4. With that as the goal, most families should be able to find a good compromise.
However, holidays in general can be complicated for divorcing and separated parents. During holidays, it is common for parents even with a court-ordered parenting plan to run into problems. For parents in these situations, we offer a few tips to help in avoiding problems.
The adage “if you plan for the worst, you can expect the best” holds true in these instances. If you lay your plans out ahead of time, chances are that you will be able to have success in meeting them.
It also pays for couples to be flexible in giving parents time with the children. The long summer days allow for both parents to have a great deal of time with kids, whether it is on the Fourth of July or sometime during the weekend before or after.
Control Your Emotions
Avoid the temptation to seek revenge on a spouse who has wronged you by limiting access to the children. This course of action is fraught with future peril as it shows that a parent is willing to use children as pawns to obtain what the parent wants.
Whatever you do, don’t let your emotions get the better of you – and try to be fair when dealing with your co-parent. If you have the kids this year, for example, make time for them to talk to their other parent on the phone and send photos of sparklers and red, white, and blue outfits to share the joy.
Remember, you always want to do what’s best for the kids. If they usually go to a fun family reunion over the long weekend, don’t take that away from them. You can celebrate the holiday a second time when they get home or choose a holiday that matters more to you when developing a parenting plan.
At The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C., we understand how to navigate the complexities of developing a holiday schedule in a parenting plan, including the potential difficulties involved with various types of families. To learn more about the ways we can help your child custody interests in divorce and child custody modification cases, contact us today for a consultation.