Wanting to spend more time with your children is only natural, but celebrating special occasions such as Mother’s and Father’s day, birthdays, or simply enjoying a holiday together is often a source of conflict between separated couples.
Deciding how to split this time can be fraught with issues, not least because both parents want to be with their families on special days and holidays, and it’s often hard to imagine how these could be divided to be fair to everyone. Also, parents will be trying to balance their own wishes with that of the wider family – grandparents, aunts, and other members who want to spend time with the child too. With this in mind, we have put together this guide to help couples navigate such dates.
Tips for splitting school holidays fairly
Here, we take a look at some the options for dividing holidays:
- Alternating holidays – this is one of the most common ways to split time. For example, one parent may get the children for Easter and bank holidays in one year, while the other has them for Christmas and New Year, and the following year, it switches over. This way, both parents have their children for some of the big holidays each year, and they don’t go for more than one year without seeing their children for a particular holiday.
- Split holidays – this works well for parents who live relatively close to each other. For example, one parent gets the first half of the holiday and the other gets the second half. One parent might get Christmas Eve and Christmas day, whilst the other has them for boxing day and the day after that.
- Double holidays – some parents decide to celebrate twice – once with each parent regardless of the date. Here, the contact schedule plays out as normal letting whichever parents have the child on the actual date celebrate on that day. The other parent celebrates with the child on their next scheduled visit. Or parents could designate a specific date for the second holiday; for example, one parent celebrates Christmas on 25th and the other celebrates it on 28th. In this situation, parents could alternate the years, so they each get the official date every other year.
- Birthdays – a child’s birthday can be even trickier to work out than religious or national holidays because this is the day when both parents and the wider family generally want to be with the child. Separated parents who get along amicably may wish to share the day, whether that means hosting a party together or visiting a park or restaurant. However, when parents live far apart or don’t get on, other alternatives need to be considered. Very often, the solution is to alternate years, with one parent getting even years and the other getting the odd ones. Regarding the parent’s own birthday, the best plan is for each parent to have time with their child on their respective birthday.
Splitting Mother’s day and Father’s day
For parents of the opposite sex, the solution is to let the mother have her day and the father to have the children on his. However, for same-sex parents, it is a little trickier. One option is to reframe the day and treat both Mother’s and Father’s days as parents days instead. For example, where a child has two mothers, they could spend time with one of their mothers on Mother’s Day, with the other mother celebrating on Father’s Day, treating it as an alternate Mother’s Day. This can then alternate from year to year to the official day.
Splitting Bank Holidays
One solution to the three day weekend is to give the child an extra day with whoever would usually have them on the particular weekend. Another option is to count up all the bank holidays over the year (excluding Easter, Christmas, New Year and other religious holidays) and divide them equally, even if that occasionally disrupts the typical weekend order.
It is important to remember there will be no perfect solution that gives everyone exactly what they want. Sharing holidays and special dates is one of the realities of separation and divorce and both parents should aim to be realistic about what to expect.
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