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Creating a Parenting Schedule for the HolidaysYour first holiday season after your divorce can be stressful for you and your children because it is the first time you are not celebrating the holidays together as a family. Your parenting schedule should not add more stress to the season. Divorced parents often have unique schedules for holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. You may have already included one in your divorce parenting agreement. However, you will not know how well the schedule works until you put it into action. You may need to adjust your holiday parenting schedule to something that works better for your children.

Qualities of a Good Schedule

You should build your holiday parenting schedule around what will create the most enjoyable experience for your children. This requires sacrificing some of your own time with the children so that both you and your co-parent can celebrate with them. How you divide your time depends on your individual circumstances. You should ask yourselves:

  • Which home will the children be most comfortable spending a holiday at?;
  • Which parent is most capable of hosting a holiday celebration such as a dinner?;
  • What other family members will the children be able to see when staying with each parent?;
  • Are the children old enough to handle traveling between parents on the holiday?; and
  • Is one parent more closely associated with certain holiday traditions than the other?

Types of Schedules

There are four ways that you can structure your holiday parenting schedule:

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Parenting Plans Should Be Specific, Yet FlexibleWhen it comes to a document as important as a parenting plan, you want to avoid vague language and unanswered questions. A weak parenting plan can create conflict between the co-parents, which may also harm the children. Your parenting plan can be as specific as you need to prevent your co-parent from interpreting it differently. However, the plan should also be flexible so that you can respond to unusual circumstances with practical solutions. A good parenting plan thoroughly addresses all of the known issues that are involved in co-parenting while allowing flexibility to adjust to unforeseen issues.

Detailed Document

Parenting time is rightfully the most discussed aspect of a parenting plan because it is the most fundamental part of co-parenting. However, there are numerous areas of co-parenting in which there is a potential for conflict if the plan does not specifically address them. Some of the most common questions that the plan should answer include:

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Change of Circumstances Allows Immediate Modification to Parenting TimeWhen former spouses determine parenting time during a divorce, they are creating a schedule that works best at that moment. The needs of children and parents change as they get older. So, it is natural that a parenting time schedule will need to change at some point. A court must approve any modifications to a written parenting time agreement for them to be legal. The difficulty of the process may depend on: 

  • How significant the changes are;
  • How much time has passed since the agreement was created; and
  • Whether both parents agree to the changes.

New Laws

If your parenting time agreement was approved before 2016, you may hear unfamiliar terms when you return to court to modify it. For instance, your parenting time schedule may have been called a visitation schedule. Illinois enacted new divorce laws in 2016, and the new terms reflect a change in philosophy for creating parenting agreements. Parents are allocated responsibilities instead of being granted custody, and parenting time is one of the primary responsibilities. The language in your visitation agreement may be out-of-date, but the agreement can still conform to the law. As long as the court is satisfied that the agreement is in the child’s best interest, you may be able to preserve the parts that you do not want to change.

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