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March 18, 2024 Podcast

Designing a Holiday Child Custody Schedule for Divorcing Couples

Designing a Holiday Child Custody Schedule for Divorcing Couples

In this episode, Jaime and family law attorney Melissa Essick delve into the complexities of crafting a holiday schedule that takes into account the unique needs of your family. With the holiday season fast approaching, Jaime and Melissa provide expert insights and practical tips to help you navigate the challenges, emotions, and unique complexities that can arise during this festive time. Discover the different approaches to splitting the holidays, whether it’s rotating, fixed, or shared schedules, and find out which one may suit your family best. Jaime and Melissa share their insights into considering your children’s holiday wishes, maintaining traditions, and the critical role of flexibility in co-parenting. Make this holiday season a time of unity, connection, and lasting memories for your family by tuning in to this episode!

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Note: Our Podcast, “A Year and a Day: Divorce Without Destruction”, was created to be heard, but we provide text transcripts to make this information accessible to everyone. All transcripts on our website are created using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers and could contain errors.

Jaime: Welcome to A Year in a Day. I’m Jaime Davis, Board Certified Family Law Attorney at Gailor Hunt. On this show, I talk with lawyers, psychologists, and other experts with the goal of helping you navigate divorce without destruction. In this episode, I’m talking with my law partner and fellow family law attorney, Melissa Essick. With the holiday season fast approaching, Melissa and I want to discuss some tips and suggestions for creating a holiday schedule that will work best for you and your family during separation and divorce. The holiday season can be a time of joy and togetherness, but for families navigating the challenges of separation, it can also bring unique complexities and emotions. We’ll explore practical strategies and provide expert insights to help you forge a holiday visitation plan that prioritizes your children’s wellbeing and ensures everyone can embrace the spirit of the season. Whether you’re a seasoned co-parent looking to refine your approach or just beginning this journey, we hope these planning tips can make the holidays a time of unity, connection, and lasting memories for your family. Thanks for joining me, Melissa.

Melissa: I’m glad to be back.

Jaime: So as a divorce lawyer, what holidays do you typically see included in custody agreements?

Melissa: Well, there’s some major ones that we see more frequently, and some clients like to include more than others, for sure. The major ones are probably Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, maybe Halloween, depending on the ages of the children. Some will even get into Fourth of July, kids’ birthdays, parents’ birthdays, Labor Day, Memorial Day, those type of holidays.

Jaime: Yeah, and I guess depending upon the religion of the parents, you know, you may see some of the other religious holidays thrown in there as well.

Melissa: Yes, absolutely. That’s just one of the many things that we factor in when we’re discussing with our clients what’s the appropriate holiday schedule for their family.

Jaime: In your experience, how have you seen parents share the holidays? Is it a one-size-fits-all approach?

Melissa: Absolutely not, no. So, there’s several different ways that you can structure the holidays. One is rotating, which means, you know, if you get the Thanksgiving weekend in odd number years, the other parent will get Thanksgiving weekend in even number of years. And that works well, especially for families that are traveling. Because it allows them to enjoy a longer period of time. And also make plans for the next year when it’s might be their holiday or if it’s not their holiday. We also see fixed holiday schedules. Some parents don’t think certain holidays are as important as others or some people might have different traditions, you know, mom’s family might go to the beach over 4th of July. Dad’s family might have a special celebration over Labor Day. And so those holidays are fixed so that mom always gets 4th of July, dad always gets Labor Day. Another option is shared, where you actually share the holiday or share the actual day. So, some people will split Thanksgiving, for example, if their tradition is, you know, mom’s family typically does lunch and dad’s family typically does dinner. You can actually share and split the actual day. That obviously is not going to work if they’re in a different town. It depends on the distance between the two parents. But if they’re in the same city, that might be an option.

Jaime: Of those three approaches, do you find that one is more common than the others? Or is it really just family specific?

Melissa: I think it really is family specific. What have you found?

Jaime: Yeah, I really think it depends. How close do the parents live to each other? What are their traditions? Are they folks that travel? That sort of thing.

Melissa: Yeah, and sometimes in one custodial schedule, parents will have some fixed. Some rotating and some shared. And so, it really just depends on the holiday itself.

Jaime: I mean, I think that’s the beauty of it, right? Like if you can come to an agreement with your co-parent, you can make it whatever works for your family.

Melissa: That’s exactly right. I mean, obviously it takes both parties working together and being reasonable. And actually, making decisions based on what’s going to be best for the child, not what’s best for them. But assuming you have two parents that are able to co-parent and work together well. It really can be whatever you want to make it.

Jaime: When you are talking with your clients, what are some of the things you would encourage them to consider in deciding what holiday schedule might work best for their family?

Melissa: Well, certainly I would start by asking them what are their typical traditions, because to the extent that you can maintain status quo and kind of keep that stability for the children, that’s best. You know, the goal should be to make sure that the kids are, you know, happy and stress-free over the holidays. And so, if you can do that without much change for them, that’s best. But sometimes that’s not possible, and we have to look at creating new traditions. Another big thing that I ask my clients about is travel. Whether or not they’re going to be traveling to see extended family or whether or not, you know, if the parents live in different cities, they’re going to have to travel in order to see both parents. And so that really is a big one. If there is a family that has a lot of extended family in a different city or a different state, normally we’re looking at more rotating schedules because they need longer periods of time. You know, a shared day is just not going to be possible in those situations. And so, for example, for Christmas, what we might do is kind of split the holiday, and I say Christmas, but really it’s the winter break. But what we might do is just split the winter break to allow, you know one parent five or six days on the front end and the other parent five or six days on the back end. So that’s just one of the many things that we consider.

Jaime: Yeah, and I think it’s important for clients to remember, when you come to us and you’re asking us for sample holiday schedules, people are always like, do you have a sample schedule? And I’m like, yes. But remember, this may not match up with what your family does. So, if your family, you know, celebrates certain holidays that maybe other folks don’t, you really need to let your lawyer know which holidays are special for you and your children.

Melissa: Yes, exactly. Absolutely. And that a lot of times will come into play with traditions, but also religion as well. Lots of different things to consider. I would also encourage people to consider the wishes of the children. I mean, certainly you’re not going to do that for a two- or three-year-old child. You know, that child’s not going to be able to make a decision about what’s best for them. But as the children get older, especially into the teenage years, they’re gonna have an opinion about where they want to be and for how long they want to be there. And so at least you know, let them be heard, and then take that into consideration. It doesn’t mean that they’re gonna get exactly what they’ve asked for, but it’s something that you could consider and maybe kind of work around.

Jaime: Well, you know, one of the most important things about co-parenting, in my opinion, is being flexible. And when it comes to the holidays, most likely you have spent, you know, holidays with extended family, and there may be particular celebrations that your kids have grown very fond of. And so, if your ex, you know, if you know that his parents always host Thanksgiving dinner, and that’s something your children enjoy, maybe consider taking the lunch half of Thanksgiving so that your ex-husband can celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with the kids with his parents.

Melissa: Right. And I think just for, you know, being mindful that this isn’t necessarily about you, and it’s not necessarily about punishing the other parent too. We see that, you know, it’s from time to time, you know, that they want to kind of punish the other parents, so they want to take that time away. You know, all you’re doing there is causing the children to suffer and creating stress for them. And so just be mindful of that when making decisions.

Jaime: Do you ever see both parents spending holidays together with the children?

Melissa: Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, I do, whenever the clients talk to me about sharing a specific holiday, one of the things that I have to remind them of is that this might be temporary. It might be something that you do for the first year or two, just until everyone starts getting comfortable with the idea of the separation or the divorce.

Jaime: Like a transition period.

Melissa: Absolutely, yes. But assuming that the parents are able to work together well and can co-parent effectively and there’s not a high level of stress or animosity that can work, um, it’s just sometimes kids see more than we think they see. And so even though you think you’re putting on a strong face for the children, it may be that it’s causing more tension for them for you to see. For the two of them to be together. And you might not see it, but the children could see it. And so, you got to think about that.

Jaime: Well, or conversely, if they see you and dad together, or you and mom together, the holiday, they may assume you’re getting back together. I do think if it’s a very new separation, it could potentially be confusing. But again, this is very family specific and only you as the parents are going to know how to best celebrate with your children. 

Melissa: Right, absolutely. And I think when you start, whenever we throw in significant others, start coming into the picture, that might change things as well. So. I normally encourage clients even if they want to do that voluntarily. I encourage clients not to put that in their separation agreement, not to make that permit or required thing. But if the two of you can agree to do that outside of the terms of the separation agreement, that’s fine. But you certainly don’t want to lock yourself into being required contractually. To invite the other person over because you just don’t know what’s going to happen in the future years.

Jaime: Right. Absolutely. I agree. How do you handle travel arrangements if one parent lives far away? Do you need to consider transportation, accommodations, those sorts of things?

Melissa: Absolutely. The main thing, I think, think about whenever you raise the issue of travel is cost. That naturally is going to come up and who is responsible for sharing the cost for the children to travel. Especially if you have young children that are, let’s say, across the country. In that situation, you’re gonna have to consider someone actually traveling over to get them and kind of be with them to fly back, or are they old enough where they can have someone from the airlines, and if so, that could increase cost as well. So, lots of different things to consider.

Jaime: Well, and as we’re talking about holiday schedules, I think it’s important to point out that for parents who live in different states, like the example you just mentioned, odds are good your custody schedule, especially if a court is the one deciding this custody schedule, is going to provide that whoever the children reside with primarily, the other parent is most likely going to get the majority of the holidays in my experience.

Melissa: That’s right, it’s almost like a makeup, some makeup time. Sure, yeah. And so, when there’s limited time that the children are going to be out of school, depending on if they’re traditional or year-round. And again, that’s another factor that you would want to consider when discussing holidays with, with your co-parent. But you know, depending on how much time they’re out of school, a parent that lives far away from the primary custodian is going to have to try and make up the time where they can. And most of the time, that’s over holidays and summer break.

Jaime: Yeah, that’s a good point that you brought up about traditional versus year-round school. That’s another one of those facts that you need to make sure you tell your lawyer as we are crafting language for your agreement about the holidays. The verbiage is different, right? A lot of times we talk about vacation during summer break, but if you have kids who are in year-round school, they might have a break in October. And so really it needs to say custodial time during track outs or those sorts of things.

Melissa: It really gets complicated when you have one child that’s in traditional and one child that’s in year-round. I have seen situations where we actually have two different holiday schedules or two different summer breaks, track out schedules in the separation agreement to address, you know, if traditional or if year-round because there’s, you know, the children are indifferent schools.

Jaime: Yeah, that can be tough. Do you think you should involve your children in the decision-making process regarding holiday plans?

Melissa: It depends on their age, I think, and probably their maturity. But I certainly do think that it should be taken into consideration. You know, like you were talking about earlier, there are certain traditions naturally that the children are going to want to continue to be involved in. And so, to the extent that you can allow them to continue those traditions. And kind of you know, keep that norm for them, I think that’s best. But obviously there’s gonna be times where that’s just not possible. And I do think what’s important is, even if you’re listening to their wishes or listening to, you know, what they want, that you don’t agree to anything or make any concrete plans before you discuss it with the other parent. So, you know, I think you say, well, that’s great. Thanks for sharing that with me. Let me talk to dad about that. We’re gonna figure out what’s gonna work best for this upcoming Christmas. And we’ll let you know. But to the extent that you can have a, you know, a united front, you know, and have that agreement in place with the other parent before you share the plans with the child. I think that’s best. 

Jaime: Otherwise, you’re putting the other parent in really difficult position. I mean, you potential may have got the children very excited about something that the other parent doesn’t agree too. I mean, maybe the other parent had, I don’t know, bought tickets to Disney on Ice or whatever the thing is, and they were planning to do that with the children. During the time that you’ve now promised the children that they’re gonna get to do something else. So, I agree, you absolutely need to discuss it with your co-parent first.

Melissa: Yeah, exactly.

Jaime: Are there ever times that you would not recommend that the parents spend holiday time together with the children? I know we touched on that a minute ago briefly, but do you think there’s ever a time that you shouldn’t do that?

Melissa: Yes. When there’s when the two parents, you know, when there’s a lot of animosity or conflict between the two parents and you know that it’s just going to create additional stress and tension on the children, you know, I think it’s best that you work out a schedule or a plan to, yeah, spend holidays separate. Some people are weary of doing that because they don’t, you know, they don’t want to have to start a new tradition. But even, you know, I’ve had some clients come up with some really creative things, you know. So, for example, I know Halloween, it’s such a short period of time for, and I know that’s coming up. So, and that’s such a short period of time that you get to spend with your kids because most of the time they’re in school that day and then you’re trying to squeeze in two or three hours in the evening. And so, what some people will do is, you know, one of their weekends, for example, they’ll have the kids dress up and go to like a trunk or treat, or they’ll have the kids dress up and have like a little Halloween party or a pumpkin carving party at their home or something like that, where you still get to enjoy that excitement of dressing up and getting the candy and doing the thing. But it may not be exactly on the day that, you know, that’s allotted for Halloween.

Jaime: Well, and I think Halloween is a great holiday where you can do that, right? Like, Halloween for kids is about dressing up in the costumes. It’s about getting the candy. It’s not necessarily about October 31st. And so, like you said, get the kids dressed up, go to a trunk retreat if you don’t have the kids on Halloween, and then they get to do the fun thing that they wanna do. But it doesn’t matter that it’s not on October 31st. I mean, one of the things that as a divorce lawyer, I dislike is when parents want to do two trick or treats in the same evening and they somehow want to divide it up, so like mom gets from six to 730 and then dad gets from 730 to nine. I mean, that’s just a recipe for disaster in my opinion.

Melissa: Yeah, it’s a lot for sure. Absolutely. I think what’s important too, and I don’t know that we’ve really touched on this yet, but having specific times and a specific schedule in the agreement is best, but always understand that the two of you can agree to do anything outside of that as long as the two of you agree. So really just trying to be flexible from year to year because it may be that something doesn’t fit as it did when the children were three, now that they’re 13. Does that really work for our family anymore? And if we can come up with another creative solution that’s going to work best for them. Absolutely fine as long as the two of you both agree.

Jaime: Well, and the other thing to remember, you know, sometimes holiday celebrations don’t end exactly at whatever time you’ve put in your contract that you have to exchange the children. And so, to the extent you can be cooperative and flexible with the other parent if Thanksgiving lunch is running a little late and they text you and they say, hey, I’m so sorry we’re running 30 minutes late, we’ll get there as soon as we can. You know, if you can give them that grace, they are more likely to return the favor when you need it as well.

Melissa: Absolutely. I have some parents sometimes that will say to the other parent, you know, I know our return times at three. I know things might run long, just as long as you can get them back by four, because we are sitting down for dinner at four. So, you set that boundary, but then also extend a little grace like you said, so there’s a little bit of flexibility in that window of exchange time.

Jaime: I mean, at the end of the day, this all boils down to making sure your children have a fun, stress-free holiday. And anything that you can do as the parent to facilitate that, that’s what you need to do. And so instead of getting into an argument with your co-parent because they’re gonna be 20 minutes late, maybe take the high road in that instance and be like, all right, well what’s gonna be best for my child, to be 20 minutes late to my celebration or for me to get in a big argument with his co-parent?

Melissa: Right, exactly, I think that’s very important. And to that end, don’t use the children as messengers, if something does come up.

Jaime: Great point.

Melissa: Yeah, I mean, if you can keep the children out of, especially those logistical things, that will reduce their stress because they do not wanna be the middle man, they don’t wanna be the bad guy telling mom that dad’s running late. So, keep them out of it as much as you can.

Jaime: So, you gave us some great tips for Halloween. Any advice for Christmas and the winter holidays?

Melissa: I know, I feel like it’s going to be here before we know it. The first thing that comes to mind with Christmas is gifts, because that seems to always come up. And I guess that would also apply to birthdays, too, for children. It really will depend on how well you can communicate, but if you can communicate effectively, even if it’s in writing, you know. I would encourage some conversation about gifts to discuss, you know, let’s make sure that we’re not duplicating things or in some instances duplicating gifts might be a good thing. You know, if you’re giving your little one a scooter, you know, and it’s relatively inexpensive. Maybe you give that idea to the other side, so that they have a scooter in both places and you guys aren’t bringing scooters back and forth. But in most situations, making sure that you’re not duplicating gifts. And then also talking about cost and spending, where there’s some scenarios in which someone’s spending enormous amount, exorbitant amount of money and someone just doesn’t have the ability to do that. There’s some ways that you can kind of share in that, I think.

Jaime: Well, I think that’s particularly important if there is going to be Santa Claus at two homes, right? You know, you don’t want your child to think that Santa only brings the good gifts to one house and to not both.

Melissa: Yeah, I mean. Yeah, that’s a big one for sure. Or they could be really excited for two Santas. Or if the two of you can work together and you can do one larger Santa, you might do that as well. So, I think it really just depends on the family.

Jaime: And again, these are all just options, right? Like it all boils down to what works best for your family. Something we haven’t really talked about that I think is important, decorating. So often one parent is in the marital home that was traditionally decorated a certain way for a particular holiday. And for whichever parent is no longer in the home, I think it’s a great idea to get the kids involved and excited about how we’re gonna do, you know, decorations at the new house so that they enjoy that.

Melissa: I have not even thought about that, but I think that’s a great issue that you raised. Yeah, that’s an exciting thing for kids, I think, to not only go and pick stuff out, but also, you know, put things up and actually decorate. And they don’t need the fancy things. You know, I think sometimes us as parents, we can kind of get bogged down in some of those, the weeds or the details, really, they just want the experience with the parent of decorating. And so, to the extent that you can provide that to them. In whatever capacity that is, I think that’s, I’m sure that that will still get them excited and get them in the holiday spirit.

Jaime: And you’re creating a new tradition and a new memory for them.

Melissa: Right, exactly.

Jaime: For parents who are newly separated, is there anything you would encourage them to avoid during the first holidays?

Melissa: I would say don’t wait to the last minute. You know, this is going to take some time, it’s going to take some thought, it’s going to take some going back and forth between the two parents so that you can really get an understanding of what their position is, get an understanding of what their concerns are and what their goals are. And so, waiting until December 15th to figure out what your Christmas schedule is going to be is going to naturally create more stress. So, if you can try and work through those things, sooner rather than later so that people can make plans and put plans in place, I think you’re going to be better off.

Jaime: Also, if you are alternating holidays with your co-parent and it is your first year without the children, try to remember not to let the children know that you’re sad they’re not gonna be with you. Because you want the kids to be excited about whatever holiday they’re spending with the other parent, and you don’t want it to be about you. And you can always, again, find a different day to celebrate the holiday. Maybe you get the kids back December 26th, and maybe that’s Christmas at your house. That’s gonna be better for the kids in the long run.

Melissa: Absolutely, I had a therapist one time that we were working with say to, her client, you know, I always tell my clients, don’t say I miss you. And that to me seemed counterintuitive. I was thinking, why wouldn’t you want to tell your children that you miss them? And she said, the other way to look at it is from your child’s perspective. You know, when they’re with the other parent, they’re sitting with the other parent thinking, oh, mom’s at home missing me. Another way to look at it or to phrase it would be, I know you’re going to have so much fun with dad. You know, I’m so excited to hear when you come back, I want to hear all about it. You know, so to more kind of phrase it in a way of, about the child and about the child going to dad’s and about the child having a good experience with dad and I can’t wait to hear about it and I’ll be here when you get back, I want to hear about it. But you don’t have to say necessarily the phrase, miss you.

Jaime: Well, you know, the children, they love both of you. And so, you don’t want them to feel guilty for spending time with their other parent.

Melissa: Right, exactly.

Jaime: If you could only give one piece of advice to a parent trying to create a holiday schedule for their children, what would it be?

Melissa: I would say just make sure that your focus is on the children. And what’s going to make, like you said earlier, the focus should be making sure that they have a happy, stress-free holiday. And so, if you can make a schedule and establish a schedule that’s gonna allow them just that, for them to have a happy, stress-free holiday, that’s exactly what our goal is. And so, try not to focus on what’s necessarily gonna work best for you or what’s going to work best for the other parent, but really focus on what’s gonna work best for the children.

Jaime: And the good news is that custody schedules and holiday schedules are not set in stone. And so, if your agreement says something like, the parents can decide holiday time as they mutually agree, but in the event they can’t agree, the schedule we’re putting in is a fallback schedule, let’s say that you guys do the fallback schedule the first year, it really didn’t work for either one of you. You guys can agree on something different and just change it for the next year. So, there is that safety net. You’re not stuck with it if it’s not working.

Melissa: Yes, I will say though that if you do establish a schedule for that particular year, really important that you stick with it and that you respect that schedule. Don’t wait until the last minute, you know, to to change things up because most likely for certain holidays. People have already made plans and arrangements well in advance. And so. if you have a schedule in place and you guys have agreed to it,respect it and stick to it.

Jaime: And also, I think that so much of this depends on number one, how well do the parents get along? Number two, how close do they live to each other? You know, if mom and dad are, you know, just a few minutes apart in terms of their houses, the opportunity to actually share the day in many of these cases is much greater. Whereas if parents are living 30 minutes or more apart, that may not be possible.

Melissa: Yeah, exactly. And sometimes I’m sure, you know, as children get older, they may not mind going back and forth between mom and dad’s house. You know, that splitting the day may be great for them because they get to see, have touch points with both parents, they get to have celebrations with both parents on that particular day. As kids get older, they may not want to wake up early in the morning and rush off to mom’s house or dad’s house for Christmas. So, I think you’ve got to be mindful and consider the ages of the children as well.

Jaime: Right. I mean, your custody schedule and your holiday schedule may morph and change as the children get older for sure.

Melissa: Exactly.

Jaime: So, Melissa, we have talked a lot today about being flexible with your co-parent and trying to cooperate with them in coming up with a holiday schedule for the kids. What happens if you can’t? And what if you just don’t get along and you can’t agree on anything?

Melissa: Well, that happens as you can imagine, and that’s why we have job security. But in that event, what normally happens is there’s a lawsuit filed for custody and you go in front of a judge and the judge is going to establish a holiday schedule. For family law attorneys that have done this for a long time like we have. We can pretty much, not guarantee, but we can pretty much get pretty close to what a judge is going to do for holidays because it’s pretty standard. Judges in some situations may customize the schedule based on the family dynamic and based on the family traditions, but a lot of judges are just gonna have kind of a form holiday schedule that they use that they’re gonna put in place. And I’ll talk to my clients about that, about what’s likely to happen if they go to court. Obviously, I can’t make any guarantees, but I can tell them what’s likely to happen. And so, if the other parent is asking for something that I think is pretty close to what a judge would do anyway, I would encourage them to agree so that they can avoid court.

Jaime: Absolutely. I mean, we have clients come in all the time saying, I want every Christmas. And I’m like, it’s not going to happen. You know, a court is most likely not going to do that. They’re going to let your co-parent also have Christmas, probably at least every other year. I mean, in my experience, when we go to court and judges are making decisions about holiday schedules, most often I feel like holidays get alternated because that is the fairest way to deal with it. If folks live fairly close to one another and it’s possible to alternate each holiday. And so, when someone comes in and they’re adamant that they are getting every holiday, I’m very clear with them that that’s really not a battle worth fighting.

Melissa: Unless the other side is going to agree, most likely if you end up in court, yeah, a judge is not going to do that. And the judges are not going to get into the weeds with this. They kind of have their go-to, maybe two or three different versions of a go-to holiday schedule that they’re going to use, and that’s it. And so, that’s the beauty of working with the other parents because you do have control. And you are able to customize your schedule. Which is most likely not going to happen, or certainly not going to be exactly what you want if you end up in court.

Jaime: And I don’t think we’ve mentioned this yet, so I just want to throw this in briefly, but other holidays that we see included in these holiday schedules often Father’s Day and Mother’s Day go to the honored parent. Children’s birthdays, typically there is some provision in there for how the parents will spend time with the children on their birthdays. Occasionally, we’ll see parents’ birthdays in there, not as common in my experience. Also, can you think of any other holidays that we haven’t mentioned that we usually see? I know there’s the summer holidays, the Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day.

Melissa: Yeah, spring break sometimes becomes an issue because a lot of the times it’s tied in with Easter.

Jaime: True. 

Melissa: And so. most of the time what we see is if someone’s going to get spring break and it’s tied to Easter, that they would have the spring break and the Easter holiday and then that would rotate or alternate the next year. But spring break and Easter sometimes becomes an issue.

Jaime: Yeah, and I also think too, depending on what your basic custodial arrangement is, that’s going to impact which holidays you want to include in your agreement. If you’re doing a week on, week off schedule, you’re going to be doing a week off schedule. It may be less important for you to include some of these smaller holidays, like the July 4th, the Labor Day, those sorts of things, because if you get it, you get it great. If not, maybe you don’t care, but you do want to make sure that you’re alternating your Thanksgiving and your Christmas or the bigger holidays so you don’t miss out.

Melissa: Yes. And it comes up in a 225 schedule as well, where someone has, Mom has Monday, Tuesday, Dad has Wednesday, Thursday, and they alternate the weekends. Because it seems for some reason that there’s a lot more holidays on Mondays.

Jaime: Right, absolutely.

Melissa: And so, you know, I’ve seen where that might be an issue because they’re going to dad’s going to ultimately want to alternate those Mondays so that mom’s not getting the benefit of all of those additional holidays.

Jaime: Yeah, that’s something you need to think about for sure. Well, Melissa, before we wrap up today, is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Melissa: I think communication is key between the two parents to the extent that you can. And like I said earlier, even if it’s something that you need to communicate in writing, if it’s easier for you to do that. You know, I would encourage some form of communication because as parents you are absolutely the best people in the best situation to make the decisions about what’s going to be best for the children. Don’t leave it up to a judge because they’re not going to give as much, um, they’re not going to be as mindful about the schedule as you will be.

Jaime: Great advice. Thanks for joining us, Melissa.

Melissa: Thank you for having me.

Jaime: Thank you for listening. If you liked this episode, be sure to follow the show wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss the next one. While this information is intended to provide you with general information to navigate divorce without destruction, this podcast is not legal advice. This information is specific to the law in North Carolina. If you have any questions before taking action, consult an attorney who is licensed in your state. If you are in need of assistance in North Carolina, contact us at Gailor Hunt by visiting I’m Jaime Davis, and I’ll talk with you next time on A Year in a Day.


gailor hunt attorney
A Year and a Day: Divorce Without Destruction' is a law podcast produced by Gailor Hunt Davis Taylor & Gibbs, PLLC partner Jaime Davis. You can learn more about Jaime's experience and expertise on her bio page. If you have a question about the podcast, you can email Jaime at Please note, the purpose of this podcast is not to give legal advice. This podcast is for general, informational purposes only and should not be used as legal advice. The information discussed in this podcast is specific to the laws in North Carolina. Before you take any legal action you should consult with a lawyer who is licensed in your state.
melissa essick podcast guest
Melissa J. Essick grew up in Cary, North Carolina. She attended college at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) where she graduated with honors. While at UNCW, she served as President of her sorority, Alpha Phi. Following graduation, Melissa decided to pursue her passion of the law by attending the Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University. While at Campbell, Melissa was a member of the National Moot Court team and the Trial Advocacy team. Because of her oral advocacy and brief-writing skills, she was inducted into the Order of Barristers, an honor society that provides recognition for individuals who have excelled in advocacy and service.

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