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Christmas Schedules

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If you don’t have a formal separation agreement in place, holiday schedules can be a nightmare to navigate. This is especially true with Christmas because it is often one of the most cherished and important celebrations for many families.

There are infinite options for the Christmas holiday break depending on your circumstances including the Christmas traditions (if any) of each parent. This blog will outline the 2 most common types of Christmas schedules.

Schedule 1: The Christmas Eve/Christmas Day Split

The Christmas Eve/Christmas Day split is a popular option, because it gives the children the opportunity to spend time with each parent. This schedule is very much what it sounds like: the children are with Parent A from Christmas Eve until Christmas morning (usually between 10:00 am and 12:00 pm), and then the children are with Parent B for the remainder of Christmas Day through to the morning of December 26.
The schedule then alternates the following year, such that if the children were with Parent A on Christmas Eve and Parent B on Christmas day in 2015, the children will be with Parent A on Christmas Day and Parent B on Christmas Eve in 2016.

For children who spend an equal amount of time with each parent over the Christmas Break, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are typically “carved out” to ensure that the children are with both parents equally. So for example, if the entire Christmas break is 16 days long, the children would be with each parent for 7 days, with a break in the schedule to accommodate Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. This means the parent who has the first half of the Christmas Break, will likely have an interruption in their time with the children to accommodate Christmas Eve Christmas Day.

For children who do not spend an equal amount of time with each parent over the Christmas Break, their ordinary schedule would continue with an “interruption” to accommodate Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.

Every now and again, there may be a situation in which Parent A’s family emphasizes and prefers the celebration on Christmas Eve and Parent B’s family emphasizes and prefers the celebration on Christmas Day. In these rare circumstances, parties can still have the Christmas Eve/Christmas Day split, but not simply not alternate it each year. This means that Parent A (who emphasizes and prefers the celebration on Christmas Eve) would always have the children on Christmas Eve and Parent B (who emphasizes and prefers the celebration on Christmas Day) would always have the children on Christmas Day.

Schedule 2: The Alternating Years

The alternating years schedule is popular because it gives the children an opportunity to spend all of Christmas with one parent without interruption or travel. This schedule is also very much what it sounds like: the children spend all of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with Parent A in one year, and the following year, the children spend all of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with Parent B.

For children who spend an equal amount of time with each parent over the Christmas Break, the parent who has the children for the first half of the break would typically also have the children for all of Christmas. This means that in the following year, that parent would have the second half of the break and no time with the children at Christmas.

For children who do not spend an equal amount of time with each parent over the Christmas Break, just like the scenario above, their ordinary schedule would continue with an “interruption” to accommodate Christmas Day and Christmas Eve.

Additional Information:

In interfaith relationships where Parent A celebrates Christmas and Parent B does not, it is very likely that Parent A will always have the children for Christmas Eve and Christmas day. Depending on the arrangement, this may be balanced out by giving Parent B (who does not celebrate Christmas) additional days on another holiday, or as additional vacation time during the Christmas Break.

It is very highly recommended NOT to leave Christmas arrangements to the last minute. There can often be disputes and lengthy negotiations due to the importance of this holiday, and each parent’s often very genuine desire to want to spend time with their children during this important time. Also, the Courts are often flooded with parents asking the Court to adjudicate the Christmas schedule. If you need to go to Court, it is essential that your lawyer have enough time to prepare materials, and that you try to get your matter heard before the rush. As always, you should also provide as much time as possible for your lawyer to try to negotiate a resolution of the Christmas schedule without having to attend in Court.

If you require any assistance in putting together a Christmas schedule, or any parenting agreement, please contact us.

About the Author

Annie Noa Kenet has been practicing in the area of family law since her call to the bar in 2007. Annie advocates on behalf of clients at mediations, arbitrations, the Ontario Court of Justice and the Superior Court of Justice.

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