How Will Your Child’s Winter Break Period be Divided this Year for Parent Time?
As we are already in the month of December, that means holiday schedules and children out of school for winter break.
Below are a few reminders about the even year parent time schedule found in Utah Code section 30-3-35. If you are following the Utah statutes in regards to holiday parent time, you should make note of the following regarding parent time.
The division of winter break parent time found in the Utah statutes changed in 2008.
First, it is important to note that the division of the winter break period for parent time changed in 2008. Because of this you will want to be sure to check:
- The date your Decree or most recent court order regarding parent time was signed by the judge.
- The language included in your Decree or most recent court order regarding parent time.
- Whether any reference to a statute in your Decree or most recent court order includes a date for the statutory section.
- Whether your Decree or most recent court order has an attachment with the statute or parent time.
The following is for the most recent statutory language found in Utah Code section 30-3-35 for children over the age of 5 years old.
Now that you know whether your holiday schedule falls under the current Utah Code section you must clarify whether you are the custodial or non-custodial parent.
Determining whether you are the custodial or non-custodial parent.
Just as with the other holidays, be sure you understand who is designated as the “custodial parent” and “non-custodial parent” in terms of the holidays in your Decree or most recent court order.
- If one parent has sole physical custody, then they are the “custodial parent” and the other parent is the “non-custodial parent.”
- If you share joint physical custody and use the Utah statutes for holidays, make sure to check which parent is designated as “custodial” and “non-custodial” in your Decree or most recent court order for the division of holidays.
After you determine whether you are the custodial or non-custodial parent you must understand what the statute states regarding winter break.
What does the current statute say regarding Christmas and Winter Break?
According to Utah Code section 30-3-35, winter break is divided into two portions as follows:
- “the first portion of the Christmas school vacation as defined in Subsection 30-3-32(3)(b) including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day continuing until 1:00 p.m. on the day halfway through the holiday period, if there is an odd number of days for the holiday period, or until 7:00 p.m. if there are an even number of days for the holiday period, so long as the entire holiday period is equally divided.” AND
- “the second portion of the Christmas school vacation as defined in Subsection 30-3-32(3)(b), beginning 1:00 p.m. on the day halfway through the holiday period, or at 7:00 p.m. if there are an even number of days for the holiday period, so long as the entire Christmas holiday period is equally divided.”
In even numbered years (like this year) the children will spend the FIRST portion of the break with the custodial parent and the SECOND portion of the break with the non-custodial parent.
After determining whether you will have parent time with the children for the first or the second portion of winter break, you need to divide the break according to statute and your children’s school schedule.
The definition of “Christmas School Vacation” is found in section 30-3-32.
There is a definition for “Christmas school vacation” found in Utah Code section 30-3-32 which states:
“’Christmas school vacation’ means the time period beginning on the evening the child gets out of school for the Christmas or winter school break until the evening before the child returns to school.”
At this point we recommend sitting down with a calendar and marking the date you child gets out of school and the date they will be returning to school.
For example, the Granite School District lists the 2014-2015 winter break as being Monday, December 22, 2014 through Friday, January 2, 2014. So the child would be getting out of school on Friday, December 19, 2014 and returning to school on Monday, January 5, 2015. That means “Christmas school vacation” extends from the evening of Friday, December 19 until the evening of Sunday, January 4, which includes seventeen (17) days.
What is the day half way through the break?
The statute divides winter break into two portions, and the exchange for parent time is to occur the “day halfway through the holiday period.”
If there are an ODD NUMBER of days in the child’s holiday period, the exchange will occur at 1:00 p.m.
If there are an EVEN NUMBER of days in the child’s holiday period, the exchange will occur at 7:00 p.m.
Back to the Granite School District example, we determined there are seventeen (17) days in this year’s holiday period. Therefore, the exchange will occur at 1:00 p.m. on the date half way through the holiday period, because there are an odd number of days. The day half way through the holiday period is the 9th DAY, which this year is December 27, 2014 at 1:00 p.m. We calculated this by counting forward from December 19 eight (8) days, and backwards from January 4 eight (8) days. The day in the middle is December 27, 2014, and it is a day split by the parties.
But what if child’s winter break period has an even number of days? For example, if your child gets out of school on December 22, 2014 and returns to school on January 5, 2014. With this example there are fourteen (14) days in the holiday period. The exchange will occur on the day half way through the holiday period at 7:00 p.m. which in this example is December 28, 2014 because it is the seventh (7) day, which is half way through the break. An easy way to do this is divide the number of days in half (14 divided by 2 = 7), count that many days out, and the exchange will occur on that day.
Communicate regarding holiday schedules, traditions, and events.
This is simply the statutory recommendation for the division of the winter break period, which includes Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. As parents, you may agree to something different, but it is always suggested that you have any agreement regarding a change to the holiday schedule found in your court order in writing.
No matter if this is your first winter break period since separating as parents or if you have been separated for years, it is a good idea to touch base with the other parent regarding plans for the children during the winter break period. Early communication regarding the holiday (in other words, not sending an email the night before an event) ensures each parent is informed, and could make any changes to your schedule much easier. As children get older plans may change when it comes to friends, family, school, church or neighborhood activities. If you have more than one child, you may want to consider whether there will be different age appropriate activities to attend and how best you can make those happen between the two of you as parents. And finally, as this is a longer holiday break, you may want to consider each parents’ work schedule as well.
The way its stated in the guidelines I the non custodial parent will have my child the first part of Christmas break this year. It says I get my child Christmas Eve and Christmas day until halfway through the break but what if halfway through is on Christmas day?
The legislature in writing this statute did not take into consideration all of the various problematic nuances that actually arise when trying to apply the “Christmas School Vacation” portion of the code. For example, for some children this year, the 1/2 way point is Christmas Eve Day which creates havoc because it also specifies that the non-custodial parent have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. For your situation, it is difficult to know what the legislature intended or how the Commissioner would apply it. The best first step is always going to be to try to work out something agreeable with the other parent. Theoretically, one possible interpretation would be that you do an exchange on Christmas Day at 1 p.m. if there is an odd number of overnights overall in the break and at 7 p.m. if there is overall an even number of overnights in the break. Since it’s the overnights that the court is counting, not the DAYS, it is possible that the court could read the code this way but, of course, it is possible that it would not. A Commissioner could also determine that the language implies that “Christmas Day” is also an overnight and that you can give up SOME OTHER overnight (not on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day) during your period of time in order to make the overnight division equal. Working it out with the other side if at all possible is usually the best result because there is no time to get to a commissioner on these issues at this point.
Will the Wednesday evening visitation for non-custodial parent still apply during the Christmas school vacation rulings?
No, the Christmas vacation time cannot be interrupted by the usual “mid-week” non-custodial time.