YOUR CASS COUNTY FRIEND OF THE COURT: Holiday parenting time

Published 3:28 pm Friday, December 3, 2021

It is that time of year when parents are trying to juggle holiday events along with work schedules, extra-curricular activities, and their children’s school and/or daycare schedule.  For parents raising a child together in separate households, there is the added juggling of coordinating when a child spends time with each parent over the holidays.

As you plan your holiday events, there are things you can do to make things less stressful if you have a parenting time order to follow.  First, make sure you know what your current parenting time order states in regards to parenting time.  Some parenting time orders are very specific and may set out who gets parenting time when and on what holiday.

Second, review your parenting time order to find out if the Parenting Time Guideline applies to holidays.  The Parenting Time Guideline sets out a reasonable parenting time structure for parents (a schedule for weekend parenting time, holidays, etc.). If a parent has been ordered “reasonable rights of parenting time,” and holidays are not addressed, then you will follow the holiday parenting time schedule that is in the Parenting Time Guideline.

The Parenting Time Guideline may also apply if your parenting time order indicates that it applies for any circumstance not covered in your parenting time order. This means if holiday parenting time isn’t covered in your order, you would follow the Parenting Time Guideline for holiday parenting time. The Cass County Parenting Time Guideline can be found online at: casscourtsmi.org/foc-forms/.

Next, it may be helpful to make a calendar of the following events: (1) court ordered parenting time for each parent; (2) your child(ren)’s school and/or daycare schedule; (3) any holiday events that your child(ren) have (school or extra-curricular holiday events); and (4) family or important holiday events for each parent that each parent would like the child(ren) to attend.

Review your calendar to see if there are any conflicts with the current parenting time schedule and holiday events. Work with the other parent to modify parenting time to accommodate your child(ren) being able to be present for important family holiday events for both parents. If parenting time cannot be modified to accommodate a child being present for one of your family holiday events, check with your family members to see if an event can be changed to a time when you have parenting time so that your child(ren) can be present. 

Changing a scheduled holiday event may mean opening presents at a different time or planning a holiday breakfast instead of dinner.  However, ensuring that your child is able to participate in a family holiday event will let them know that the importance of the holiday season isn’t when a party takes place or what food that is served, it is the loved ones who are present.

Of course, you may not be able to reschedule every holiday event.  You can always find creative ways for your child(ren) to participate though, like letting them do a Zoom call to say hi to people at a party, letting them bake a treat to send to the party, bringing them back something from the event, or recording a message from those at the event to play for your child(ren) later.

The Michigan Child Support Program provides services to more than 830,000 children and families in the State of Michigan.  It is very likely that even if you don’t have a parenting time order, at least one of your family members does and is trying to figure out how to make sure a child isn’t left out during the holidays.  If someone asks you to move an event so a child can participate, be open minded to the request.  While moving an event may be inconvenient, the memory the child has of being present for that event is something that will have a positive impact to last a lifetime.

If you have questions about the FOC that you think would be helpful to address in future columns, please send them to the FOC email address: foc@cassco.org.