Parents may need to review child custody arrangements before making holiday plans.
The holidays are often a time to focus on family and celebrate a joyous occasion. For those who are divorced, the holidays can bring more than just joy and celebration, they can bring stress over which parent gets to share the holiday traditions with their children. Parents in this situation can reduce the stress and focus on the joy by having a basic understanding of how child custody laws in their state impact the holidays.
How does Missouri law impact child custody over the holidays?
In Missouri, the courts encourage parents to use a holiday schedule. The schedule generally involves a split of the holidays, allowing for fathers first pick which holidays they will have the children on even numbered years and mothers first pick on odd numbered years. Holidays accounted for generally include New Years, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Parents can also include custody arrangements for other holidays they choose to celebrate.
This agreed upon holiday schedule applies throughout the child custody agreement, including vacation time. As a result, parents should not attempt to schedule a vacation with their children over a holiday unless it is also their holiday to have physical custody of the children per the agreed upon holiday schedule. If a dispute arises, the court will likely rule in favor of the parent who has custody per the holiday schedule.
It is also helpful to provide guidance on when the holiday officially starts within the agreed upon parenting plan. For example, parents may want to denote the holiday as an entire weekend beginning at 5:00 pm the preceding Friday for holidays that fall on a Monday, like Memorial Day or Labor Day.
What if a parent does not follow the holiday schedule?
Unfortunately, parents do not always follow the agreed upon visitation schedule. If a parent fails to follow the agreement, it is wise to contact the court and your legal counsel. In some situations, it is helpful to reach out to law enforcement.
What if a parent needs to change the holiday schedule?
Things change. A holiday schedule that may have worked for years may no longer work or parents may realize their initial attempt at putting together the holiday schedule did not work as they intended. In these cases, parents can change the agreed upon plan. A modification to the arrangement can be completed informally or formally. Parents that move forward with an informal agreement should note that if there is a dispute about the informal arrangement, the court will refer to the prior plan. A new filing is required if parents want to be able to enforce the arrangement.