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Handling Holiday Parenting Time in New Jersey: Vacation and Custody Issues

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Even the most amicable post-divorce relationships can be put to the test when it comes to navigating child custody during vacations. While day-to-day custody is decided at the time of your divorce, those plans can be completely thrown off by holidays. 

Because of these sudden changes, it’s often necessary to amend the vacation schedules, especially as school, family needs, and other complications pop up. Here’s what you need to know to navigate these choppy waters and what the state of New Jersey has to say on the matter.

Planning and Communication Are Keys to Keeping This Process Easy

According to New Jersey Code 9: 2-4, the rights of both parents are to be equally considered regarding vacation plans and time. In general, custody agreements must include consideration of parenting time when it comes to a child’s vacation. 

However, we need to emphasize that visitation and parenting time aren’t the same as vacation time. Instead, you and your ex are encouraged by the court system to create your own vacation schedule time as part of your divorce agreement.

1. Visitation and parenting time aren’t the same as vacation time.
To do this, you and your former spouse need to do two things—plan your vacations well in advance and communicate these plans to your ex so that you can negotiate the appropriate schedules. It works best for all involved when the parent who wants to go on vacation with their child submits a written itinerary to the other parent with a proposed schedule of how the vacation time will be split up. 

2. Submit a vacation itinerary well before you hope to have your kids for a holiday.
Ideally, the itinerary needs to be submitted weeks before a summer vacation or other holidays so that the other parent can shift plans or make a counterproposal. Either way, you need to be as flexible as possible and keep the lines of communication open or this isn’t going to go as smoothly as you might like.

If You Can’t Create a Vacation Schedule With Your Ex, New Jersey’s Courts Have You Covered

The New Jersey courts prefer the two parties decide about a vacation without the courts having to get involved. However, if you aren’t able to come to an agreement, you’re always welcome to use the New Jersey court holiday visitation schedule. The New Jersey holiday schedule alternates child visitation every other year with the two major holidays of Easter and Christmas. 

It works something like this: In 2021, Parent #1 would have the children on Easter and Christmas Eve. Then, in 2022, Parent #2 would have visitation for those two holidays. Usually, this would mean that the parent would have the child from 8 am on Easter Saturday until 7:30 pm on Easter Sunday and from 6:00 pm on Christmas Eve to 11:00 am on Christmas morning. Also, the New Jersey court system recommends rotating New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day with one parent having the child from December 31 at 6 PM to 11 am on January 1. The other parent would then have visitation from 11 am on January 1 to 7:30 pm that night.

For other holidays such as Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Halloween, parents should work on creating their own schedule to ensure the children have the opportunity to share these events with both parents equally. The same goes for other religious and cultural holidays that you may celebrate such as Yom Kippur, Hanukkah, Passover, Ramadan, Sukkot and Kwanzaa. 

Don’t forget to consider these other special events.

There are other special (non-holiday) events you’ll want to consider. For instance, on one parent’s birthday, the child would visit with the celebrating parent from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm if the day is on a school day. On the child’s birthday, the non-custodial parent should have at least three hours of visitation to celebrate with the child. Also, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day should always be spent with that respective parent. 

Keeping Everyone Informed Works Best for All

The bottom line is that it’s essential to communicate about all aspects of custody if you expect things to work out for you, your ex, and most importantly, your child. Kids need to know exactly what’s happening. Their need for consistency and the ability to plan ahead is very important. One of the worst feelings for a child is insecurity and anxiety about the future. By communicating, your children won’t have to wonder about what’s going on and who they’ll be with on what day.

Communication and give and take go a long way.

Creating a give and take with your ex is crucial as this usually leads to a reciprocal situation when you need it. This isn’t about “scoring points” or “winning” by having the children more often than your ex. Both parents need to be involved equally.

Sometimes, miscommunications may happen. It’s important to avoid this at all costs, but if it happens, don’t take it personally. Instead, keep your kids in mind and talk to your ex privately about these issues as much as possible. Too much communication never hurt anyone; however, not communicating enough or miscommunicating certainly has.

This is a great time to consult with a knowledgeable family law attorney if you have questions about child custody, and vacation time and parenting time.

Contact the Trusted Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in Woodbury, NJ Today

If you’re thinking about filing for divorce, you’ll also most likely be dealing with another matter like child custody, child support, or division of assets, so you’ll need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group represent clients throughout the state, including Williamstown, Woodbury Heights, Runnemede, and Westville. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we’ll fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.

The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.

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