Having a well-planned custody schedule after a divorce or separation often prevents disputes between the parties from arising. In addition to the regular custody schedule, divorced or separated parents should also have a well-planned and detailed holiday custody schedule. One of the questions our Newtown and Doylestown clients often have is which schedule takes precedence. Below is a question that addresses this issue.
Question: My ex-wife and I live in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and we have a holiday custody schedule. We haven’t had any issues or disputes about our regular custody schedule. This year, I have my kids on Christmas day, which falls on a Sunday, but my ex-wife has the kids that weekend according to our regular custody schedule. I would typically go pick up the kids at 3pm on the Sunday of the weekends that she has custody. Since I have the kids for Christmas day, can I pick them up before 3pm, like the night before or do I have to wait to Sunday at 3pm?
Answer: Unless there is specific language otherwise, holiday custody schedules have precedence over normal custody schedules in Pennsylvania, and you would follow the holiday custody schedule you and your ex agreed upon. Therefore, you would have to look at the terms of your holiday custody schedule as to when you can pick up your kids or when your ex has to drop off your kids to you. Hopefully, you have specific times identified so there is no ambiguity. If there is not a specific time identified in the order, you should use the time the exchange happened the year prior or, if this is the first year, the customary time.
Consider the following example: John and Jane from Doylestown, Bucks County are divorced. John and Jane have a custody schedule and a holiday custody schedule. Per the custody schedule, each parent has the kids on alternating weekends starting on Friday at 3pm until Sunday at 3pm.
Because John and Jane both want to wake up with their children on Christmas day, they agreed in their custody order that John would have Christmas Eve from 12pm to Christmas day at 12pm in even years and Jane would have Christmas day 12pm to December 26th at 12pm. The parents switch that schedule in odd years. In this example, Christmas falls on a Sunday this year and it is an even year. Per the regular custody schedule Jane has custody of the kids on Christmas weekend.
In such a case, the holiday custody schedule would have precedence over the usual custody schedule. John would have the kids starting at 12pm on Christmas Eve, and Jane would pick up the kids at 12pm on Christmas day and keep them until 12pm on December 26th, then the regular schedule resumes.
For more information about custody issues and disputes in Doylestown, Bucks County see: