The holiday season is here and although it may be a time to celebrate and come together for many families, it can, unfortunately, be a time of disagreement for others. Especially when it comes to holiday parenting schedules.
The Standard Holiday Visitation Schedule Overrides the Regular Parenting Schedule
During the holiday period, families typically tend to depart from their regular parenting schedules. This is because most families want their children to spend quality time with each parent.
If you are separated or divorced, holiday parenting schedules are typically outlined in separation agreements or divorce orders. Holiday parenting schedules are extremely specific and tend to accommodate parents 50/50. For instance, they include the specific time of the exchange, the place this exchange occurs, and how long the children will be with each parent over the holidays.
Why is a Holiday Parenting Schedule Important?
A holiday parenting schedule is important because it minimizes conflict between parents during the holiday season.
What happens when parents do not agree on a set holiday schedule?
If parents are unable to agree on a set schedule, they will have to ask the courts for assistance. Parents will also be able to look to the courts for assistance if they want to change an existing holiday parenting schedule.
Best Interests of the Children
When making a holiday schedule, the Court will always look to the best interests of the children. The best interests of the children outweigh the parent’s personal wishes for setting a holiday schedule.
The Court does recognize that children should be spending time with both parents during the holidays, as such, they typically create parenting schedules that allow for children to spend equal time with both parents because that is the default position for being in the best interests of the child.
Factors Courts Consider
Below are standard considerations the court takes into account when creating a holiday parenting schedule:
- Courts typically like to create holiday parenting schedules on a rotating basis. This means that the children will spend time with their parents according to odd and even-numbered years. For example, on even-numbered years, children will be with one parent on Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning, on odd-numbered years, children will be with the other parent on Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning.
- Courts also consider adhering to family traditions. If possible, the court will ask parents when they plan on gathering for the holidays and try to maintain those.
- Courts place a heavy emphasis on children spending an equal amount of time with both parents over the holidays.
Traveling During the Holidays
If you are planning to travel with your children during the holidays, you are permitted, so long as you do not disrupt the other parent’s time with the children. For instance, unless you have consent from the other parent to travel with the children on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day, you will be unable to do so as it affects the other parent’s parenting time.
For parents who live in different provinces or countries, they may consider alternating holiday periods annually. For instance, one parent has the children for the duration of the Christmas holidays in 2022 and the other parent will have the children for the duration of the Christmas holidays in 2023.
Bringing an Urgent Motion
Parents often assume that they are able to bring an urgent motion if a parenting dispute arises before the holidays. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
The general rule states that parties are unable to bring motions to court prior to attending their first case conference, with the exception being, cases of urgency. There is a high threshold to meet if you are looking to bring an urgent motion, for example, whether the children are at risk of abduction, domestic violence concerns, criminal activity, etc. (Yelle v Scorobruh).
Although bringing an urgent motion may be the only option for some parents, parties should try and avoid going to court over the holidays.