The “non-specified” option is similar to the “fall as it may” option because neither option specifically designates in advance with which parent the children will spend a particular holiday. Instead, both options take a more casual and flexible approach to holiday planning.
However, the “non-specified” option differs from the “fall as it may” option because the “fall as it may” option follows a pre-determined weekday/weekend schedule based on the days that the children are scheduled to be with each parent. For instance, if the Fourth of July is designated as a “fall as it may” holiday, and the Fourth of July falls on a day when the children happen to be with the Mother, then the children would spend the Fourth of July holiday with the Mother, unless, of course, the parents specifically agree otherwise.
On the other hand, the “non-specified” option does not follow any pre-set parenting schedule; therefore, it does not matter with which parent the children would ordinarily be on the holiday. Consequently, holiday plans are based upon everyone’s needs, wants and other obligations at the time, so plans are made on an ad hoc, and often last-minute basis.
Furthermore, the “fall as it may” option is usually applied only to “lesser” holidays that are not particularly important to the family, such as President’s Day; the “fall as it may” parenting plan usually establishes specific schedules for the more significant holidays, such as Christmas. The “non-specified” option is usually used when the children are teenagers and are more likely to want some freedom of choice in how they spend their holidays, so this option usually applies broadly to all holidays and vacation periods. A typical “non-specified” option might provide:
Holidays Generally: Because both children are teenagers, no specific holiday parenting schedule is deemed necessary. The parents shall cooperate with each other with the goal of having the children spend a portion of every major holiday and school vacation period with each parent. Taking into consideration the family’s circumstances, including work/travel obligations, and the best interests of the children, the parents shall cooperate with each other, and shall consult with the children, in determining if and when the children will spend time with each parent.
However, the “non-specified” option does not prevent the parents from establishing a specific schedule for some holidays or vacations. Therefore, the foregoing paragraph might also provide:
“except as otherwise provided herein, no specific holiday parenting schedule is deemed necessary.”
In order to avoid any possible conflicting requests by the parents to spend holiday time with the children, the following language could be added:
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 for all holidays that begin in the months of January through June, and in odd years for all holidays and vacation periods that begin in the months of July through December. The Father’s request shall prevail in odd years for all holidays that begin in the months of January through June, and in even years for all holidays that begin in the months of July through December.
Furthermore, if the children are young at the time the parents divorce, their parenting plan might initially establish a more structured holiday schedule such as the “equal and rotational” option, but then switch over to a “fall as it may” or “non-specified” option when the children get older and attain a specific age.
The “non-specified” option provides for maximum flexibility, especially when the parents have variable (and often unpredictable) work/holiday schedules because their jobs require round-the-clock coverage–such as police officers, firefighters, and health care workers. While this option does not provide predictability, and while this option may result in one parent’s spending more holidays with the children than the other parent can spend, this option nevertheless establishes an opportunity for each parent to spend time with the children. The “non-specified” option may be the best alternative available given the circumstances.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org