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Can I Have Extra Parenting Time Around the Holidays?

Can I Have Extra Parenting Time Around the Holidays?

By: M. Scott Gordon

If you are in the process of separating from your spouse, or if you are in the middle of a divorce case and have minor children from the relationship, the prospect of reaching an agreement about child custody can seem daunting. Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), courts do not award child custody to one or both parents, but rather they “allocates parental responsibilities.” Those parental responsibilities are made up of significant decision-making responsibilities and parenting time.

Parenting time is defined as the “time during which a parent is responsible for exercising caretaking functions and non-significant decision-making responsibilities with respect to the child.” In other words, parenting time is the time a parent physically spends with a child. When the winter holidays are near, or when a child’s summer vacation from school approaches, the issue of parenting time can be a complicated and contentious one. You might be wondering: Can I have extra parenting time around the holidays? The answer to this question depends on several different factors that are particular to your situation. We will say more about whether extra parenting time around the holidays is possible and what would need to occur for it to happen.

Extra Parenting Time Needs to Be Official

The first thing to know and keep in mind is that any seemingly “extra” parenting time needs to be official. To be clear, even if one parent does spend more or “extra” time with the child during a holiday season, that additional parenting time needs to be part of an allocation judgment or parenting plan to be enforceable.

If an allocation judgment or parenting plan does not allocate extra time for one parent around the holidays and that parent tries to take the child on a vacation, the other parent can block it because it was not awarded. The other parent can ask the court to enforce the allocation judgment and the parent can face consequences for violating the order.

When the Parents Agree to a Parenting Time Schedule in the Parenting Plan 

How can you make extra parenting time around the holidays official? The easiest way to do this is to reach an agreement with the other parent and to include this parenting time in the parenting plan. When parents can reach an agreement about how parenting time will be allocated, the court will agree to it — if the arrangement is in the best interests of the child. Accordingly, if you want to have extra time with your child around the holidays, you may be able to work with the other parent to include this within the parenting plan. Keep in mind, you may need to give up parenting time at another point in the year to make up for the other parent’s lost time around the holidays.

For many parents who celebrate the same holidays, a parenting plan will include an allocation of parenting time in which parents alternate extra parenting time around the holidays every other year.

Courts Can Allocate Parental Responsibilities 

If you cannot reach an agreement with the other parent, you may be able to demonstrate to the court that extra parenting time around the holidays is in your child’s best interest. Your lawyer can discuss your options with you.

Contact a Chicago Parenting Time Lawyer

Do you have questions about seeking additional parenting time during the holidays or developing a parenting plan that considers holidays and vacations? A Chicago parenting time attorney can assist you. Contact M. Scott Gordon & Associates today.