Parenting Plans and the Holidays
What is a Parenting Plan?
A Parenting Plan is a document, in writing, that outlines the manner in which parents will raise their children and deal with related issues after they separate and divorce. The need for a Parenting Plan can arise in various scenarios, among them those scenarios involving divorcing parents to whom the federal Divorce Act applies and who need to settle issues relating to their parenting arrangements. (Provincial law apply to arrangements made between married parents who do not divorce, and between unmarried payments).
As the name suggests, a Parenting Plan can cover numerous topics relating to the children’s care, including:
• The time spent with each parent;
• Details around a regular parenting schedule and custody rotations;
• Telephone and other contact with parents during their respective non-custodial periods;
• Transportation-related arrangements, including who picks up the children at school;
• Who else, besides the parents, are authorized to pick up and drop off the children;
• Time with other people (besides the parents); and
• Details around extra-curricular activities.
About the Holidays
At this time of year, separated and divorcing parents may be concerned about how the children will split their time during traditional religious and cultural holidays. During such periods (and during vacations and other special days such as the children’s birthday, parents’ birthdays, and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day), the Parenting Plan is ideal for setting out a comprehensive arrangement.
Since the list of holidays and important days will vary from family to family, it must be tailored; but in all cases, it should set out the mutually-agreed extent to which the regular custody schedule will change during these time periods. (And it’s a good idea to ask older children for their input in this regard). If at all possible, the schedule should coincide with existing school breaks to make it easier for everyone involved.
To avoid confusion – and thus avoid potential conflict – the Parenting Plan should be as clear and detailed as possible. No one wants a real-life version of that typical “divorced-family-at-Christmas” holiday movie scenario: With parents bickering in the driveway or snow-covered front lawn at pick-up time, disputing the details of the holiday schedule while the children (and any gathered family or friends) awkwardly look on. This is embarrassing mainly for the children and can mar what should be a special time in their lives.
The Canadian Department of Justice has a Parenting Plan tool, with sample clauses covering a range of topics, that parents can use to help draft a solid working arrangement between them.