Our Custody Agreement Doesn’t Cover Halloween – What Does That Mean?
I don’t know about you, but I love Halloween. That’s especially true since I had children of my own. We spend weeks picking out costumes; we often dress in a theme with our cousins. We talk about it for literally months.
I swear, from the first day of school, I start thinking about the holidays. I search for new recipes, and I start planning special pajamas and whatever other little treats I want to try to make into new annual traditions.
But I really love Halloween. I’m not, like, one of those Halloween crazed people, but I did always love the holiday as a kid, and as a grown up, I still love it for my kids. It feels like it kicks off a magical season, and I’m always all about making magic for my kids.
Which is why it surprises me that most of the separation agreements I’ve seen don’t include Halloween as one of the holidays that the parties will alternate.
As long as mom has primary physical custody, it’s probably fine – she’ll end up with more of the Halloweens than not. But when custody is shared, and when the day isn’t treated as an actual holiday, problems can arise.
For most major holidays, where the parenting time is specified by the parties’ court order or agreement, the parties alternate on a year on/year off schedule, giving both parents the opportunity to share all the holidays with the children.
The thing about Christmas and Thanksgiving and other big holidays that you specifically outline in your agreement is that they’re often alternated year over year, so that no one parent winds up with Christmas two years in a row. The same can’t be said of holidays that aren’t listed – like Halloween and Valentine’s Day, where it is possible that the holiday time could fall on one parent’s parenting time for two or three years or more in a row, depending on how parenting time is shared between the parties.
When you have minor – but important – holidays that are left out of the agreement, you run the risk of finding that, because of the way your parenting time is allocated, that you miss out on two years in a row of a particular holiday.
That’s fine, if you have a good parenting relationship, and you make space for each other. Mostly, I don’t hear about families like that. I do, however, hear about the families where there are issues. Where the children go trick or treating, and the mom calls and calls and calls, trying to get a few minutes to drop by to see the kids in their costumes before they go.
Is Halloween important to you? What about Valentine’s day? Boxing day? Kwanzaa? I don’t know – Veteran’s Day?
It’s important to look critically at the holidays included in your agreement. Mostly, we see Christmas, Thanksgiving Day, spring break (which includes Easter), 4th of July, Memorial Day, and Labor day. Separation agreements (and court orders) often also specify time during which the parties can take a vacation, but that’s also something to look out for specifically.
If you follow a non-Christian religious tradition, you’ll want to include holidays that are important to your faith – Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, Rosh Hashanah, Ramadan, etc – but you’ll want to make sure, too, that you don’t leave out Christian holidays (like Christmas and Easter) that often follow the school calendar. You won’t be doing yourself any favors to include Yom Kippur but to forget to divvy up the Christmas holiday, where the kids have nearly two weeks off of school!
I want to make sure I at least have an opportunity to take a picture with the kids, or see them before they go trick or treating.
Halloween is a big deal for a lot of people! I don’t know why we don’t include it. If it’s important to you – or, at least, it’s important that you can at least see the kids for a quick picture before they go trick or treating – you’ll want to make sure you include that in your agreement.
If you already have an agreement in place and it doesn’t include Halloween or trick or treating, you may want to talk to your child’s father ahead of time. Remember how you’re feeling, and, if this year is your year for Halloween, be sure to include him in it to the extent that you’d want to be included if it was his year.
If you have primary physical custody, it may be fine – because you may have Halloween every year (or even most years) – but you’ll still want to consider this ahead of time.
We don’t include Halloween since it’s not as much of a ‘real’ holiday as many of the others (and doesn’t correspond with a break from school on the traditional academic calendar that most schools here follow), but, in many families, it’s still an important one.
For more information about holidays, vacations, or how to customize a parenting plan that will work for the unique challenges presented by your family, give our office a call at 757-425-5200 or schedule an appointment today.