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Home for the Holidays?

Dividing Parenting Time During the Holiday Season

The holidays are often portrayed as a time of togetherness when families should gather and enjoy each other’s company. When a family includes divorced parents, this isn’t easy to achieve. Instead, the best course of action often involves the children splitting time and holidays between each parent.

The problem is that child custody is contentious, even in the best-case scenarios. When parenting time is mixed with the emotional time of the holidays, it can be difficult for parents to keep their children’s best interests at heart. It’s all too common for separated parents to spend time fighting over who will see their children more during the holiday season instead of working to make their children’s holiday experience as smooth as possible.

Whether this is your first holiday separated or your tenth, it never hurts to reevaluate your approach to custody over the holidays. Oregon has several laws and guidelines that can affect child custody during the holidays. Understanding these rules and focusing on your children’s happiness can help you find the best solution for your family this holiday season.

How Child Custody and Parenting Time Are Determined in Oregon

Not every pair of separated parents will have a court determine their child custody agreement. Unmarried parents may never file the petition necessary to decide on custody legally. Even in a divorce, parents may come to an agreement on their own, and the court will generally enforce it. It’s only when two parents cannot agree without court involvement that a judge will decide for them.

In general, Oregon will give one parent full legal and physical custody over the child, and the other parent will receive “parenting time.” This division of responsibility is intended to prevent complications and delays in legal decisions for the child. When two parents can’t agree on the custody arrangement, they will likely also disagree on things like what school the child attends and where they receive medical treatment.

To decide which parent will receive custody and which will receive parenting time, Oregon judges take several factors into consideration:

  • Emotional ties between the child and various family members
  • Each parents’ interest in and attitude towards their child
  • Any abuse of one parent by the other
  • Each parent’s ability to care for the child
  • The likelihood that each parent will help their child maintain a relationship with the other.

Oregon courts cannot consider the gender of either parent. The courts can only consider other elements like income, marital status, and general lifestyle if it’s shown that they have or will harm the child physically or emotionally. The goal of these decisions is to give the child the safest and most supportive environment possible in which to grow up without making moral judgments about either parent.

Parenting Time on Holidays and Special Occasions

When deciding on custody and parenting time, holidays are important and complicated. The state of Oregon acknowledges this and offers some suggestions for dividing holiday time fairly. While the courts and individual families don’t need to abide by these suggestions, they provide an excellent starting point. Every family is different, so the right arrangement will vary.

For example, if both parents receive approximately equal parenting time, a standard solution is to alternate parenting time every year. For example, one parent may receive parenting time over Thanksgiving during even-numbered years, while the other receives parenting time in odd-numbered years. Frequently, whichever parent receives Thanksgiving parenting time in a given year will not get winter holidays that year. Other parents may agree that one parent always receives Thanksgiving, while the other always receives winter holidays.

Of course, if you and your child’s other parent can come to a holiday time agreement that doesn’t align with these guidelines, you can follow that instead. If you have made arrangements that don’t follow a legally binding, court-ordered parenting time agreement, then make sure to file a request to change it. Otherwise, the parent who has the children for that holiday may be at risk of legal action for violating the order already in place.

How to Change Parenting Time Schedules

Modifying a parenting time schedule can be simple, or it can be time-consuming and stressful. The difference is whether you and your co-parent can agree on how and whether to change the current agreement. To get your parenting time schedule changed, you need to file a motion to modify the order.

When both parents agree to all changes and sign the modification request, it is known as a “stipulation to modify parenting time.” In many cases, the court will sign it and put it into effect with no further problems. In rare instances in which the change appears dramatic or not in the child’s best interest, the court may request that the parents appear for a hearing.

Otherwise, you will simply file a “motion requestion modification.” In this case, the other parent can respond in writing to object to the changes. If the court sees the objection as reasonable, then you may be called to another hearing to revisit the parenting time schedule. You will likely need to prove that the change is in your child’s best interest and that the change’s benefits will outweigh the stress of changing the child’s routine.

Celebrate Holidays Without the Hassle

It’s rarely easy to share parenting time with a former partner, and the holidays can make it harder. If you need to create a parenting time schedule, or if you want to modify a current plan, then it’s important to consider holidays in advance. Since you both would likely prefer to have your children with you during the holidays, it’s essential to come prepared with a good reason for any holiday schedule you suggest.

If you’re concerned about your parenting time schedule, you can reach out to our qualified family law attorneys today. They have the knowledge and experience to help you design and fight for an equitable parenting time schedule that will support your child. More importantly, they can help make the holidays a little less stressful during a time when family is more important than ever.