Tis the season to be jolly – and know your rights. From custody arrangements to paid time off and even holiday displays, lots of factors can play a part in making the holidays more stressful. But knowing your rights can help ease the burden so you can enjoy your time with family and friends.

Below are three laws to think about as we head into the holiday season.

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Shared Custody

The holidays are a time for families to come together but divorced or separated couples with children can struggle to divide time during the holiday season. It’s important to remember that kids likely want to see both parents over the holidays, so finding a way to make that happen may require some creative planning and compromise. Below are a few suggestions on how to accommodate both parents:

Nick Brown is an associate at The Cavanagh Law Firm.

Plan two celebrations. The holidays can be difficult for children of divorced parents, but it can actually be turned into a positive experience. Parents can plan two holiday celebrations so the children can spend time with both sides of the family. Determine which dates work best for each parent and plan a gathering – it can even be before or after the official holiday.

Split the day. Plan your celebration in either the morning or the evening and allow the other parent to have the other half of the day.  Or parents can alternate who has a particular holiday, with one parent having the holiday ending in even-years (2022, 2024), and the other having the holiday in odd-years (2023, 2025).

Celebrate together. If possible, it can be beneficial for your children to celebrate special holidays with both of their parents at the same time. If the parents’ relationship is amicable, this is a great option.

Use Technology. With the advent of smart phones and video chat capabilities, it is easier than ever for parents and children to stay connected.  Consider allowing the non-custodial parent (or important family members) to call or FaceTime with children on the holiday.

Employee Rights

Major holidays like Christmas and New Year’s Day are federal holidays. If you work for a branch of the government, this is a guaranteed day off. If your employer falls under the private sector, you might not be guaranteed any major holiday off. When you start a job, your employer should provide a list of holidays that you are entitled to paid time off.

If you don’t celebrate religious holidays, such as Christmas, the same general rules apply with an exception. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to “reasonably accommodate” an employee’s religious practices unless doing so would impose an “undue hardship” on the employer. Reasonable accommodation around the holidays can include flexible scheduling or floating holidays, which allow workers to take paid time off on a different date.

Holiday Displays

Holiday displays are arguably the most festive part of the season, but many controversies exist regarding displays on public property. Most of these complaints come down to whether or not a holiday display is religious, as the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause generally prohibits the government from sponsoring or endorsing religious symbols.

Government entities are allowed to celebrate the holidays with non-religious decorations. This can include lights, trees, depictions of Santa Claus, and in some circumstances, other patently religious symbols like a Nativity scene. Cases surrounding holiday displays have made their way to the Supreme Court, with the constitutionality of these displays often determined on a case-by-case basis.

Most homeowners can display whatever they want; however, this freedom may not extend to a community, condo, rental facility, or neighborhood governed by a Homeowners Association (HOA). An HOA may have specific rules restricting religious displays, even if it’s private property.

The holidays should be a time to reflect on the past year and look forward to the new year while enjoying time with family and friends. If you keep these laws in mind, you’ll be sure to have a holiday full of joy, peace, laughter and light.


Author: Nick Brown is an Associate at The Cavanagh Law Firm, focusing on family law and domestic relations including dissolutions, paternity, modifications of custody and support, and premarital agreements.