A good parenting plan is all about the details. Even when parents are cooperative about shared parenting, a detailed parenting plan is still essential to avoid confusion, misunderstandings and disputes in the future. Here are three questions about holiday time that every parenting plan should answer.

When do major holidays begin and end?

Parenting plans usually make some kind of provision for alternating the major holidays between the parents. But, what exactly does Thanksgiving, Mother’s Day, or Christmas really mean? Are they the whole weekend or just the day? What time does parenting time start for each holiday and what time does it end? Even if, during their separation, the parents have been able to work out these details as each holiday has come up, it’s not uncommon for these issues to cause disputes from time to time. Providing this kind of detail in the parenting plan gives parents something to refer to if conflict or confusion arise.

First, specify in the parenting plan exactly which holidays you are alternating between the parents. Then, for each holiday, detail exactly what day and time the holiday time starts and what day and time it ends. For Thanksgiving, you might say something like, “Thanksgiving will be from after school or daycare on the day before Thanksgiving, until Sunday at 5:00 p.m.” For Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, you might say, “Mother’s Day/Father’s Day will include the weekend from Friday after school or daycare until Sunday at 5:00 p.m.” If you decide that weekends extend until the children are delivered to school or daycare on Monday morning, say so.

Do we adjust the regular parenting schedule after the holiday?

Generally, holidays have priority over regular parenting time, although this should be spelled out in the parenting plan. Sometimes, however, holidays will cause one parent to have the children three weekends in a row. Do you want to just roll with it and know that everything will balance out eventually? Or do you want to add something to your parenting plan that prevents either parent from having the children more than two weekends in a row?

Consider what is in the children’s best interests. The simplest option will always be to settle right back into the parenting schedule with no adjustments. If that’s what you decide to do, say so. If you really feel that it’s important to even things out immediately, consider something like this: “When the holiday schedule interacts with the regular schedule such that one parent would have three weekends in a row, we shall adjust the weekend schedule so that, instead, each parent has two weekends in a row. If we cannot agree which two weekends each parent will have, the parent who has the children for the holiday shall also have them for the weekend before the holiday and the other parent shall have the children for the two weekends after the holiday.”

What about other three-day weekends?

There are many three-day weekends that aren’t national holidays. Most parenting plans include the basic three-day weekends like Memorial Day and Labor Day. But what about Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, President’s Birthday and Columbus Day, not to mention the miscellaneous three-day weekends in the school calendar? If your children are off school, it’s an exception to your regular parenting plan. The problem is that no matter how specific you try to be, it’s likely you will miss at least one, and this kind of ambiguity can increase tensions between the parents.

Your first decision is how many three-day weekends you want to specifically include in your parenting plan. Start with the three-day weekends when one or both parents are off work on the Monday. As for the others, it will be helpful to you in the long run if you clearly state whether weekend parenting time will extend to the day off school or not.

Here are two possible statements you might use: “Unless we agree otherwise in writing, no changes will be made to the regular parenting schedule for any three-day weekends other than Memorial Day and Labor Day (and any others you want to include). For those three-day weekends we have specified, if parenting time would ordinarily conclude on Sunday, it will be extended to the same time on Monday (or, if parenting time would ordinarily conclude on Monday, it will be extended to conclude at the same time on Tuesday).” or “For any three-day weekend the children are off school, if parenting time would ordinarily conclude on Sunday, it will be extended to the same time on Monday (or, if parenting time would ordinarily conclude on Monday, it will be extended to conclude at the same time on Tuesday).”