Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Planning Ahead Makes Holidays Special for Children of Divorce

by Wendy Alton

One of the most frequent questions & concerns I hear as a Michigan divorce lawyer is how to share time with the children around the holidays after a divorce. This can be one of the more difficult issues to work through, particularly because each parent wants to keep their holiday traditions alive, but will now need to share that time with the other parent.

There are no hard and fast rules in Michigan for sharing holidays after divorce. In fact, the courts generally encourage parents to come up with schedules that work best for them, and stick to those schedules. This is because each family has their own traditions, their own families, and often the parents can come up with a schedule that is far better for them than the court could ever impose.

In the absence of any kind of agreement between the parents, many courts do have parenting time guidelines that are published merely as “suggestions.” Each county differs, and the following represent some of the ideas or suggestions for how to share parenting time during the holidays.

• Macomb County:
o Dad: in odd years (2011, 2013, etc) has the children from 6pm on the last day of school for Christmas break through Christmas Eve at 9pm, at which time, Mom takes the children from Christmas Eve at 9pm until 7pm on the day before school begins. This would then reverse in even years.

• Livingston County:
o Alternate all holidays (parents decide who takes what holiday in what year)
o Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Years Eve, New Years are defined as 9am to 6pm

• Marquette County:
o Dad: in odd years (2011, 2013, etc) has the children from 6pm on the last day of school for Christmas break through Christmas Day at 2pm. Mom has the children from Christmas Day at 2pm until 6pm on December 27th. Then the normal parenting time schedule resumes. This would then reverse in even years.

• Cass County:
o Dad: in odd years (2011, 2013, etc) has the children on Christmas Eve at 9am until Christmas morning at 9am. Mom would have Christmas Day from 9am until December 26th at 9am. Normal parenting time would resume after that. This would then reverse in even years.

The State of Michigan also has extensive parenting time guidelines found here: Regarding holiday parenting time, the State of Michigan’s suggestions are identical to those of Macomb County. Again, these are merely suggestions in absence of a formal agreement between parents.

While it is easy to get wrapped up in what holiday time you want or feel as though you deserve with your children during the holidays, it is always helpful to try to look at the holiday schedule from your child’s perspective. The holidays are a magical and special time—keeping this as the main focus during your discussions and negotiations about holiday schedules will keep you focused on what is going to best for your children.

Divorced parents can make the holidays special for children by creating a holiday schedule that best suits their family, sticking to it so that the children know what to expect, and then making their holiday time with the children magical and memorable for years to come.

If you are interested in learning more about divorce or family law, please call Wendy Alton at 248-380-9976 or email her at

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