For many children, Halloween is one of the most beloved holidays of the year. Between costumes, parties, and candy, what is not to love? Yet when it comes to families in which parents have gone through divorce, Halloween is often overlooked in many child custody proceedings and parenting schedules. If your custody agreement does not include a visitation plan for Halloween, you have a few options.
Halloween is Left Out of Many Parenting Plans
During custody proceedings, parents tend to tackle the major holidays and special occasions such as Christmas, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving, and birthdays, as they plan where the child will spend each from year to year. But Halloween often goes unnoticed until it approaches, leaving parents to figure out who should spend the day with the child.
Halloween is usually an exciting day for children, and one for which parents often want to be a part. Because children tend to show less interest in participating in Halloween activities as they get older, parents want to soak in the joy of watching them dress up in costumes and trick-or-treat while they are little.
How you resolve this issue depends in part on how effectively you coparent with your ex-spouse, and how much each parent wants spend Halloween with the child. One thing is certain: The earlier you plan for the day, the smoother it will go.
Holiday Parenting Schedules in New Jersey
In an ideal world, parents can work through important divorce issues such as child custody and visitation using a collaborative process called mediation. Mediation allows both parents to achieve some of the goals that matter to them, if they are willing to budge a bit and concede to others in their ex-spouse’s favor.
However, mediation simply does not work for every couple. In that case, the courts are left to determine custody, visitation, child support, and other matters. Parents who cannot agree on how to split the major holidays, birthdays, and other occasions are required to use a court-issued holiday parenting schedule.
Most court schedules alternate parenting time for holidays between even and odd years, with holidays considered to begin at 9:00 a.m. and end at 7:00 p.m. Halloween is considered a special day when the non-custodial parent is with the child from noon or the end of the school day until 6:00 p.m.
Keep in mind that parents are free to deviate from the court’s parenting plan, but only if both agree to the change. If not, the parenting plan in place stands.
Consider These Options for a Peaceful and Fun Halloween
If you and your ex-spouse prefer to work together out of court to plan for holidays and birthdays, you have a few options to consider.
Split the day. One option is to share the day. For example, one parent attends the school party, while the other takes the child trick-or-treating in the evening. This allows both parents to spend some time with the child on Halloween and make memories without having to wait their turn for an entire year. This is practical for parents who live relatively close to each other.
Spend the day together. Although many divorced parents disagree on some issues, they may still see eye-to-eye when it comes to coparenting. If this is the case for you, consider spending Halloween together as a family. You can choose a time to meet up and go trick-or-treating together, carve pumpkins, and share a meal.
Children who see their parents are a united front often feel a sense of security and continuity during and after divorce. This is an ideal option for parents who get along and can put past hurts and resentments aside for the day. If one or both parents have a new partner, it is important for these new adults to be cooperative and accepting of the coparenting relationship.
Alternate from year to year. In some cases, divorced parents do not get along or do not live close enough to share the Halloween holiday. Or, they just want to have the child for the entire day without having to include the other parent. That is not unreasonable for someone who divorced their ex-spouse because they could not get along.
Coparents in this category would do best to alternate holidays from year to year. Maybe Dad has the child for half of certain holidays and birthdays on odd years, and Mom has the child on those days during the even years. To make it fair, all the special days such as Halloween would be divided equally between both parents.
Generally, holidays and special days take precedence over regular parenting time, and extended periods of parenting time can be scheduled to coincide with these events.
Plan on a separate celebration. If you do not have your child for Halloween this year, that does not mean you cannot celebrate. Some people love Halloween so much, they celebrate throughout October. There are so many fun activities and events you can enjoy with your child even if they do not fall on Halloween itself.
Consider these Halloween festivities during your parenting time:
- Haunted houses
- Baking fall treats
- Community trunk-or-treat events
- Pumpkin picking and carving
- Decorating your home
- Designing and creating a Halloween costume
- Assembling goody bags for friend and neighbors
Create new traditions. Along those lines, why not use your parenting time to create a new Halloween tradition for you and your child? Divorce is the end of the familiar family structure, but it is also a brand-new beginning. New traditions are a great way to usher in the next chapter for your family.
Maybe you can start a few months ahead and work with your child to design and assemble a Halloween costume from scratch. Or you can pick out some recipes for Halloween cakes and cookies, bake them together, and deliver them to neighbors, friends, and family members.
Why not host a Halloween party for your child and some friends where they can play themed games and vote for the best costume? Make the most of your parenting time by savoring the special moments and making new traditions you can enjoy for years to come.
Updating Your Custody Agreement can Make Next Year Easier
If you have not addressed certain holidays in your parenting plan and they seem to be a sticking point, it is a good idea to update your agreement and avoid future disputes. It is not uncommon for to modify a parenting plan over time, as children get older and their needs and circumstances change.
Halloween is a good example. Younger children look forward to dressing up and going trick-or-treating for candy. They want their parents to be a part of their celebration. Yet as they get older and hit the teen years, they may not be as interested, or they may go off with their friends to do their own thing. Therefore, planning parenting time for Halloween when your child is four or five years old is going to be more of a priority than when they are 16 or 17.
It is okay to update your visitation schedule. Just weigh the advantages and disadvantages to ensure it is worth the time and effort, especially if you expect your ex-spouse to put up a fight.
What is the First Step in Changing a Parenting Plan?
In New Jersey, parents have two avenues to modify a child custody order. They can either file a motion or use a consent order if both parties agree on the changes. If the judge approves the revisions, they will enter the consent order, making it official. If one parent opposes the change, the other parent must file a motion with the court and prove the change would be best for the child.
The parent seeking to modify the parenting plan must prove there has been a substantial change in circumstances warranting a modification. In the case of Halloween, a substantial change of circumstances may be:
- A parent who refuses to comply with the existing parenting agreement
- A parent who abuses alcohol or drugs in the child’s presence
- An older child who prefers to spend Halloween with their friends rather than go to the non-custodial parent’s home
If you believe that it is time to change your New Jersey child custody agreement for any reason, the first step is a call to your divorce lawyer. Like family court, the lawyer’s job is to act in the best interests of your child and to advocate on their behalf under the law.
Bridgewater Child Custody Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Help Clients Create Fair and Reasonable Parenting Agreements During Divorce
Halloween should be fun and stress-free. If your ex-spouse is making that difficult, contact the Bridgewater child custody lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. We are happy to review your current parenting plan and see if changes make sense. If you are just starting the divorce process, we will work tirelessly for you and your child to ensure your parenting agreement meets your child’s needs. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call us at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients in Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.