Blog & Resources

Dec 2, 2018

How to Get Christmas Parenting Time in BC

Dec 2, 2018

How to Get Christmas Parenting Time in BC


Christmas parenting time in BC is time allocated to two separated parents who want to share the holidays with their children. Disputes relating to Christmas parenting time are resolved through the Family Law Act and the Divorce Act.

The key in resolving disputes when it comes to Christmas parenting time or custody is fairness. In this article, I will show you how to discuss, negotiate and obtain parenting time with your children during these special holidays.

Here is how it will go:

  1. Learn 7 tips on how to deal with parenting time over Christmas in BC;
  2. Figure out what holiday time really is and means;
  3. Choose one of the common options most separated parents use;
  4. Negotiate the time and if it fails:
    1. Resolve if you do not have a court order or agreement; or
    2. Resolve if you do have a court order or agreement.

Step 1: Learn 7 Tips on Christmas Parenting Time in BC:

  1. Kids are kids. Let them be kids. Do not let your children know that you are having a dispute over Christmas time.   Don’t try to get them to side with you to get your day. That is unfair and traumatizing to them because their brain is not advanced enough to resolve these issues;
  2. Tell the other parent what gifts or special activities you are planning on giving/having with the children to avoid duplication. It would be best to have the children experience different things with each parent.
  3. If you don’t hate each other (even if you do), it would be lovely for your kids if you could all have a civil and respectful lunch or dinner over Christmas. It will make your kids feel happy, secure and loved by both parents. Do it for the kids. You will never regret it.
  4. Do not sh** talk each other during Christmas. You will always regret it and there is no benefit to it.
  5. You are not a victim and neither is your ex. Stop blaming everything on the past and what was done to you. You made a decision to have a relationship with your ex. It is over now. Move on and show your kids that you are a strong role model. Show them love instead of hate or anger towards their other parent.
  6. If you don’t get your way, that is OK. None of us gets his/her way in life all the time. Make concessions and compromises. They are more positive and helpful than fighting.
  7. Don’t fight during the holidays. No one will enjoy that and everyone will lose. Find compromise. Love is in compromise, not conflict.

Step 2: Figure Out Dates for Christmas Parenting Time

  1. For children who attend school, usually Christmas parenting time is from the last day of school in December until the first day of school after the new year. Count the number of days your children are out of school first.
  2. For children who do not go to school, splitting holidays is a bit easier and I will explain that below.
  3. It is best to divide parenting time during the holidays equally if at all possible, even if you are the primary parent.

Step 3: Choose a Standard Option on Parenting Time

As Divorce lawyers in Vancouver, we routinely negotiate parenting time disputes over the holidays and have found that a few options work better than the rest. I will explain those options below. Read them carefully.

Option #1: Split the Cake in Half

In this scenario, let’s say school ends on December 14th and begins on January 3rd. One option is to propose to the other parent that you keep the first half, being from December 14 to noon on Christmas Day, and the other parent gets Christmas Day after noon until the first day of school. In this scenario, you get Christmas Eve and some of Christmas Day and the other parent gets half of Christmas Day and New Year’s eve and day. You can then rotate is situation for the next year; being that next year, you get the second half and your ex gets the first half.

Option #2: Christmas and New Year Only 

This option works best for children who are not in school but can sometimes work if they go to school as well: it doesn’t matter how long school holidays are. Parents follow the regular schedules they have but make exceptions when it comes to Christmas and New Year’s Eve. So let’s say you have a week on/week off parenting arrangement and both Christmas and New Year fall on your parenting time. In this situation, you and your ex can agree that he/she can pick up the children during your time at 9 a.m. on Christmas Day and return the children the next morning at 9 a.m. This way you get Christmas Eve and your ex gets Christmas Day or Vice Versa.

Same thing applies to New Year’s Eve and day. One of you has the children on New Year’s Eve, and the other one, New year’s day. If you have to miss a couple days of your parenting time for making concessions for the other parent, you can ask for make up time after the holidays. For example, instead of the one week, you will keep the children a couple days more or during the next Easter or other holidays. You do not have to ask for make up time but it is an option.

Option #3: Rotating years 

This option is best for parents who do not live in the same town. It can also work if you live in the same town. In this scenario, you look at the entire time the children are out of school and agree that i.e. in even years, you will have the children during the entire Christmas and New Year Holidays. The other parent will get the entire holidays with the children in odd years. The schedule would rotate for all even/odd years.

Other options: 

You and the other parent can discuss and agree to many different arrangements and options that fit your schedule. But the above are the most common ones we as family lawyers  in BC see when dealing with parents.

How To Resolve Christmas Parenting in BC

Division of parenting time over Christmas in BC can be resolved whether you have an agreement/court order or not. But there are different procedures to take to resolve it. Let’s look at each scenario:

Do Not Have Court Order or Agreement on Custody in BC

If you do not have an agreement or court order for parenting time or custody, here are the best practices to follow:

  1. Discuss your wishes and your proposed schedule with the other parent. If there is a disagreement:
  2. Hire a family law mediator to help you resolve your disagreement and to get you and your ex to reach one. If you fail,
  3. You can try and hire a parenting coordinator who will, amongst other thing, make a decision relating to parent time on your behalf. The decision is binding as if it was a court Order.

Have Court Order or Agreement on Custody in BC

Many family law agreements or custody Orders in BC are not specific enough regarding how to share parenting time over Christmas. In very acrimonious cases, the days and times of sharing these holidays are spelled out. But the majority of court orders or agreements do not necessarily specify the division of time and dates. They do however provide a general guidance or background relating to how to split these holidays.  For example, many of these agreements or court orders say that holiday time is split equally or rotates. In case you cannot agree on specific times and dates, you can follow the below steps:

  1. Hire a family law mediator to help you resolve your dispute. If that fails,
  2. Hire a parenting coordinator who will make a binding decision relating to this issue. If you do not want to do that,
  3. You can apply to Court to have the issue resolved:
    1. At the Provincial Court, you can set down a Notice of Motion to have a judge make a decision relating to parenting time over the holidays. Make sure you accompany it with an affidavit. At the Vancouver Provincial Court, the court will likely hear your matter on 7 day’s notice on each Tuesday. Or
    2. At the Supreme Court, you can set down an Application on 8 clear day’s notice to have a judge help you and make a decision on this issue. You would have to file a Notice of Application and serve it on the other parent. Accompany that by an affidavit. In most cases, you must provide 8 clear day’s notice for the hearing. If you waited for too long and Christmas time is just  around the corner, you can apply for short leave through your family law lawyer to have the matter heard sooner.

Christmas parenting time disputes are best handled through our BC divorce lawyers who know all the ways to best resolve your dispute. Call our award winning lawyers at 604-974-9529 or get in touch for a consultation to best navigate the options to you have to spend invaluable time with your children.