If you are divorcing in Tampa Bay and you have children, Florida law requires that a parenting plan be created. The parenting plan outlines parental responsibility (decision-making authority) along with a time-sharing (custody) schedule.
The time-sharing schedule should not only address where the children stay during the school year and in summer months, but also how holidays, such as Christmas, are to be handled.
Below are some sample Christmas time-sharing schedules:
One of the most common Christmas schedules is where a parent cares for the children during the entire winter break on odd years, and the other parent cares for the children during the entire winter break on even years. This schedule is more conducive to longer vacations and for parents to go out of town to visit relative with their children. In my experience, this plan tends to be better for teenagers and older children who are a bit more independent, as well as for parents who are in a medium to high conflict relationship (as they are required to interact less during what can sometimes be a tough holiday season).
Splitting Christmas Eve/Christmas Day
Another alternative is for one parent to care for the children on Christmas Eve. The children are then exchanged either late on Christmas Eve or early on Christmas Day, and then they get to spend time with the other parent for Christmas Eve. In some families, Christmas Eve or Christmas Day has more meaning, so the schedule remains the same every year, but other families prefer to alternate Christmas Day and Christmas Eve every year. In my experience, this schedule tends to be better for younger children who want to spend part of the holiday with each parent.
For some parents, the dissolution of their marriage does not mean the dissolution of their family traditions. These parents agree that, every year, one parent will host a Christmas dinner or Christmas party and invite the other, or perhaps every year the extended family will all go on a Christmas vacation together. Admittedly, this is probably the most rare of the schedules, but this schedule may be best where there is a strong and healthy relationship between the parents and a desire and ability to maintain traditions.
Whichever Christmas custody is enacted, it should be in the best interests of the children. You are much more likely to be able to develop a better and tailored Christmas schedule via a private form of dispute resolution, such as collaborative divorce, then if you put the decision in a judge’s hands.