Anyone who’s read this blog knows my favorite thing is to rant about problems I see in Parenting Plans. Most of these are problems that should never have happened to the poor parents and I feel badly that the court or a parenting coordinator has to intervene to fix them after they’ve caused conflict for a family.
I’m asking custody evaluators everywhere to consider how some of their recommendations for holiday parenting time, made in the evaluation reports, cause unnecessary changes and a LOT of unnecessary conflict for the parents. After parents receive their custody evaluation, many of them agree to adopt all of the Recommendations as their final Parenting Plan. So, whatever the evaluator recommended becomes the Plan. When it comes to holiday and vacation clauses, that’s not always good. My particular pet peeves are below.
Please, please include Halloween as a holiday ONLY if the child/ren are very young AND the parents have specifically asked for it. Halloween is difficult because it’s not a major holiday, school is in session, and often falls on a school day (but sometimes a weekend). If it falls on a weekday, giving the non-custodial parent (NCP) the child from after school until 7 (or 8PM) causes an in-person exchange for the parents. If it falls on a weekend, then the language that says one parent has the child from “after school to 7pm” makes no sense. It looks to me as if Halloween is often included as a boilerplate provision which neither parent really asked for and which doesn’t take the child’s age into account. If you do include it as a holiday, please specify that the provision is void once the youngest child turns 12. Please.
Easter. Please don’t define Easter as 6pm Saturday until 6pm Sunday. This provision adds TWO unnecessary changes for this poor child, and on a holiday weekend too! If you’re going to assign Easter as a separate holiday, please make it start on Friday after school (or permit a Friday exchange if necessary) and have it run till Monday morning return to school. And remember that Easter often coincides with Spring Break on some school’s calendars, so make a provision that accounts for that so the parents don’t have to fight about which one “trumps”— Easter or Spring Break? By including Easter as a holiday, you may have thwarted one parent’s Spring Break travel plans.
July 4th. PLEASE don’t include this as a separate holiday. Just leave it out. If this day is important to the parents, then let a parent choose it as part of his/ her vacation time. The parents are going to alternate priority for setting summer vacation days, so that will alternate the 4th of July holiday for them as well, if they care about the 4th. Some parents don’t care and are happy to have this fall wherever it falls on the regular parenting time schedule. Including this as a separate holiday not only creates extra exchanges, which in high conflict families is a mess, but also messes with each parent’s ability to schedule vacation time. I’ve seen so many cases where Parent A has first choice of vacation dates in even-numbered years, but Parent B is assigned the July 4th holiday. You just took away Parent A’s ability to schedule his vacation during the first week in July.
These rants take us to the middle of the year. I’ll save my rants about the holidays in the second half of the year for another post.