School Holidays, Christmas and Special Occasions

Usually, the arrangements will differentiate between time spent during term time and during school holidays.

Sometimes the pattern that’s set out for term time will continue into the school holidays and sometimes the parents will simply divide up the school holidays into weeks and share them out that way.

Careful thought needs to be given to what happens when one arrangement ends halfway through a week and how the handovers will be managed.

There are three half terms – some parents choose to split each down the middle from the Friday at the end of school up to Monday morning is usually ten nights, so they get five each, with the handover on Wednesday. Other parents might get one full half term each so they can go away, and then split the third half term equally.

Of particular complexity can be the arrangements for Christmas. It’s usually appropriate for there to be some sharing of Christmas. This might be by:

  • alternating Christmases so that children spend the entire Christmas break with one parent in one year and the other the following year etc;
  • if the parents live near each other, by sharing Christmases, for example by giving one parent a period of up to and including Christmas Eve and then handing over at the beginning of Christmas Day;
  • saying the period up to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day should be with one parent and Boxing Day until New Year’s Day with the other;
  • swapping time during the February half term, for example to attend a winter sports holiday or another activity as time was missed at Christmas;
  • the parent who has Christmas does not get the children at Easter and vice versa.

Christmas can obviously be an emotive time of year for separated families but it’s also a good idea to consider Christmas presents and how these will be resolved. Are you going to give joint presents or separately? Will the children open their presents with both parents present (as sometimes happens) or will you do a separate celebration?

The same consideration applies for birthdays. Have a think about the logistics. Having two parties seems excessive! The usual rule is that if the child spends their birthday with one parent then they will spend it with the other in the following year. Sometimes the birthday party will be with the other parent on a different day. Sometimes, although the night is spent with one parent the other parent might see them for example after school to give them a birthday present.

Parents’ birthdays are usually celebrated with the children being with that parent, which may involve swapping days to facilitate that happening. The same is true of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.