Children and Holidays After Divorce: The “Fall as it May” Option

Note: As I have previously emphasized, children are not objects to be “owned” by or “assigned to” either parent. Hence, in recent years legal terminology has substituted “parenting plan” for the traditional “custody.” In keeping with this more enlightened attitude, I do my best to avoid  language stating that “the Father/Mother shall have the children,” and instead, prefer to say that “the children shall be with the Father/Mother” for a certain holiday or time period.  That said, please understand that, solely for simplicity and clarity of writing in these blogs, I may refer to the “custodial” parent as the parent with whom the children are staying at that moment pursuant to the terms of the parenting plan,, and to the “non-custodial” parent as the parent with whom the children are not staying at that moment pursuant to the terms of the parenting plan.

The “fall as it may” option recognizes that some holidays or special occasions are not particularly important to either parent after the divorce, so the parenting plan does not “rotate,” “split,”  or otherwise designate with whom the children will spend that specific holiday. This option is similar to the “add on” option discussed in my previous blog, except that the “fall as it may” option applies to every day of the week, not just Fridays, Mondays and specified holidays.

The normal parenting schedule remains in effect for each “fall as it may” holiday, so the holiday is not assigned specifically to either parent. Therefore, if a “fall as it may” holiday falls on a Tuesday, and the children are ordinarily with the Father on Tuesdays, then the children will spend that holiday with the Father; the same would apply for “fall as it may” holidays that fell on a day that the children were ordinarily with the Mother.

In a “fall as it may” arrangement, the parent’s agreement might provide:

Fourth of July:  No special provisions are hereby made for the Fourth of July, and the normal parenting schedule shall remain in effect.

However, this provision does not take into consideration the possibility that the non-custodial parent might nevertheless want to spend time with the children on that day. Therefore, the non-custodial parent would have to request that the  custodial parent temporarily waive the normal parenting schedule. For instance, the non-custodial parent might be invited to a cookout and fireworks display that the children would also enjoy attending. In order to accommodate such a situation, the following language might be added to this paragraph:

Fourth of July: However, either parent may request to spend part or all of the Fourth of July holiday with the children, which request shall not be unreasonably denied.

(The use of the term “either parent” establishes that both parents can make such a request depending on the normal parenting schedule, while simultaneously avoiding the “custodial/non-custodial” language.)

What if both parents would like the children to be with them for the Fourth of July (or any other “fall as it may” holiday)?  In order to address this situation and avoid future conflicts over “fall as it may” holidays, the following language could be added to this paragraph:

 If both parents request the same holiday parenting time and a compromise cannot be reached, then the Mother’s request shall prevail in even years and the Father’s request shall prevail in odd years. The parents shall cooperate and be flexible with each other in establishing beginning and ending dates and times. The normal parenting schedule shall resume once the agreed-upon holiday time has ended.

Note that an “equal and rotational” option has been used in order to give each parent an opportunity to request that the children spend non-scheduled time with that parent. This also avoids having the “custodial” parent always prevail by arbitrarily denying the non-custodial parent’s request .

The only possible drawback to the “fall as it may” option is that the children might find it to be too vague or uncertain because where the children spend that holiday has not been specifically pre-determined–the day of the week depends solely on the shifting nature of the calendar (for instance, the Fourth of July was on a Thursday in 2019, but will be on a Saturday in 2020). At the same time, however, the “fall as it may” approach avoids the formality and rigidity of the other parenting options previously discussed, while providing each parent the chance to spend time with the children on those holidays (and for the children to do something fun and unexpected) whenever a previously unforeseen opportunity becomes available. 

Divorcing parents have many options when developing their holiday schedule–we have already discussed the “equal and rotational,” “exclusive,”  “split,”  “add on” and “fall as it may” options. By considering family traditions, travel requirements, and other relevant factors, parents can be very creative, in developing a parenting plan that accommodates the divorced family’s unique situation. In my next blog, I will discuss the “ non-specified” option.

If you have any questions or comments about this article or my mediation practice, or if you have any issues that you would like me to address in a future blog post, please do not hesitate to contact me at: (860) 674-1788 or