Holidays are hard. They’re always hard. I field questions about holidays probably almost every single day.
Generally speaking, holidays are alternated between parents. We alternate legal holidays – the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving. We usually alternate Christmas and Spring Break, too, to varying degrees, both to reflect the need for both parents to be able to spend time with the children during the holidays, but also to reflect the reality of the school calendar. (Often, children have a fairly large chunk of time between these major holidays without school, so parents have to plan accordingly.)
Mom gets Mother’s Day and her birthday; Dad gets Father’s Day and his birthday. We usually alternate the children’s birthdays, or make some kind of specific provision that the parties share that day somehow, in some way that makes sense to them.
But, really, that’s about it, at least as far as custody and visitation are concerned. One thing, though, that I don’t think we talk about enough is Halloween.
I get it. Halloween isn’t exactly a real holiday. There’s no real religious connotation. There’s no break from school. I think that’s really why it generally isn’t included; Labor Day and Memorial Day don’t seem like “real” holidays either (no disrespect meant to our service men and women or any who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom), but they are often accompanied by days off work or school. That ramps up their level of importance, and encourages attorneys to address them.
Halloween…isn’t that way. But Halloween is no less important, right? I mean, as a mom myself, I really look forward to dressing my little one up in a costume, and taking him around the neighborhood. He’s a little too young to be all that aware of it just yet (except that he is very, very aware that he does NOT like hats, regardless of the circumstances), but it’s fun for us. My brother, sister, and I have a little tradition where we get all of the nieces and nephews together, eat dinner, and then trick or treat with my parents, brother in law, and sister in law.
It’s just Halloween, but it’s so meaningful, and so fun. And I’ve long felt that not addressing Halloween in custody and visitation agreements is maybe a mistake.
How is Halloween handled in custody and visitation?
Simple. When Halloween isn’t addressed, the parent who has regularly-scheduled visitation on that holiday gets the child.
Otherwise, whatever the agreement says about Halloween (and, for myself, I can’t think of any agreements that I’ve done where Halloween was included) governs, and the parties must follow that agreement.
Are there alternatives to handling Halloween this way?
Of course. Like anything else, you’re only limited by your creativity when it comes to these things, especially if you and your child’s father are able to reach an agreement about how you’d like to share Halloween (or, really, any other holiday or special event that is meaningful to you as a family).
You can include a provision that has both of you trick or treat with the child together. Hey, if it’s important, you can put things aside for one night!
If that’s not possible, you may want to reference particular events, or traditions, and make sure that you’re allowed to continue those traditions.
What if we can’t reach an agreement about Halloween?
Like everything else these days, we have lots of other events that relate back to the holiday, too. There are Halloween parties in all sorts of different places leading up to actual Halloween – like the Night of the Living Museum at the Virginia Living Museum, Zoo Boo at the Virginia Zoo, Haunted Hunt Club Farms, and probably tons and tons more – that you can make an annual tradition, even if you can’t score October 31 every single year.
There are tons of trunk or treat programs, fall festivals, and other events, too. If you can’t make Halloween a thing every single year, that’s not to say that you can’t celebrate the holiday.
Like everything else, you need to re-evaluate plans and traditions when you and your child’s father separate. Make new traditions, and celebrate something different. It doesn’t have to be the same as it was when you and your child’s father were together; you can find new ways to enjoy the holiday and make it meaningful for both you and your children.
It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s at least a suggestion. It’s probably unrealistic to expect that you’ll get every holiday – or even every Halloween – without some kind of negotiation on your part. It’s not easy, but with careful planning you can at least manage everyone’s expectations and ensure that the holiday stays on track as much as possible.
For more information or to discuss creating a custody and visitation schedule for the holidays, give our office a call at 757-425-5200.