The Christmas (Hanukkah, Kwannzaa . . .) holidays give plenty of reasons to be stressed out. Add a holiday visitation dispute to the season and the stress level can reach epic proportions.
Holiday visitation in Michigan is governed by Michigan Compiled Laws section 722.27a which provides that visitation shall be granted in accordance with the best interest of the child. The statue also provides that it is presumed to be in the best interest of a child to have a strong relationship with both parents.
So how should holiday visitation time be divided?
While there is no one size fits all answer, here are some common solutions to resolving holiday visitation disputes.
Alternate holiday visitation
For many holidays, such as Memorial Day, Labor Day and Thanksgiving, a common solution is to alternate the holiday visitation. For example, Thanksgiving, say from Wednesday until Sunday would be awarded to one parent in odd years and the other parent in even years. Alternating holiday visitation helps nurture the legislatures goal of promoting a strong relationship with both parents and it is fair to boot!
Divide the break and the holiday
For other holidays, such as Christmas, a common solution is to divide the Christmas break and the holiday. Similar to the prior example, the Christmas break is alternated with one parent awarded the first half of the break (in odd years) from school recess until school resumes, and the other parent awarded the second half of the break from school recess until the mid-point of the break and the other parent being awarded the second half of the break.
In addition to dividing the break, the holiday is divided. Dividing the holiday and the break is most commonly used on Christmas day. For example for many families, opening presents on Christmas day is so important it cannot be missed and an alternative to celebrating together is for both parents, every year, to carve out the holiday. For example, if one parent is awarded the first half of the break, that parent would celebrate Christmas eve and Christmas day with the minor child with an exchange on Christmas day (e.g. at 11:00 a.m.) so the other parent can celebrate Christmas day with the minor child. The Christmas day holiday visitation carve out would end later Christmas day or the day after returning the child to the other parent to continue exercising the first half of the break.
Holiday visitation should always trump regular visitation
To avoid confusion, every holiday visitation order should contain a provision which provides that holiday visitation trumps other parenting time. Simply put, if it is “his weekend” and “her holiday”, holiday visitation should trump regular parenting time without makeup visitation.
In Michigan, the divorce and custody court give the parties leeway in fashioning an appropriate holiday visitation based upon the parties family traditions and needs, coupled with a sprinkle of fairness. A parenting time bracket is a good technique to help visualize a parenting time by graphically formulating a parenting time schedule.
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By: Daniel Findling