Family day weekend is a break that the children look forward every Winter. Often it involves heading to the family vacation home and getting in some R&R, skiing, boardgames and quality time with the ones you love. For recently separated or divorced parents, the thought of the Family Long weekend can feel overwhelming and be a daunting subject to approach with your estranged partner.

If you are going through a divorce or separation, it may be confusing as to how best split your time at the vacation home. Or, since the market is hot, you and your ex may be considering selling the vacation home leaving the long weekend as one of your last weekends to enjoy the space with the family. A vacation home can be hugely sentimental to children, and the decisions you make can have a big impact on their well being. While there may be no perfect one set of steps to follow in order to avoid stress and conflict, as every family is unique, there are a number of tips to help you get through it and different options to consider.

  1. Communication
    1. Communication plays a significant role in any successful co-parenting regime, especially during a holiday. Always engage in open and honest communication, keep all discussions positive and solution-focused, respond in a timely manner, and if possible, try and have all communication in writing so as to avoid any misunderstandings.
  2. Sharing the time with the children.
    1. A lot of families that are new to separation have not yet figured out how to share the long weekends. Try splitting the time. Since the children commonly have multiple days off, you could try a ‘nesting’ arrangement in the vacation home. Dad takes the first few days, then Mom takes the last. The children have the benefit of staying in their home for the entirety of their vacation, and have the benefit of seeing both parents. Nesting involves communication and respecting the other parents boundaries during their parenting time, so it is not for all couples. Since you are sharing common space, be courteous to your ex. Clean, wash the sheets, and let them know what groceries are left over. Nesting can be a great short-term solution and will ultimately benefit the children seeing their parents work together through a difficult time.
  3. Parenting Schedule and Plan ahead
    1. Planning let alone agreeing to a holiday schedule can be a difficult and tedious task. However, it is best to plan far this far in advance, if possible, not only to know when and where the children will be, but to also try and avoid unexpected surprises. This will allow the parents, as well as the children, to better prepare for the long weekends and be able to enjoy the time spent together rather than trying to accommodate last minute changes. You may agree that one parent has time with the children at the vacation home, and the other takes the next long weekend (likely March break or Easter Long Weekend). Having a holiday parenting schedule in place can provide stability and help the children transition through the divorce. Contact our office to discuss different options in putting a parenting arrangement in place before or after your divorce settles.
  4. Be flexible
    1. Most people will often have a favourite part or activity associated with Family Day Weekend. This means that when adjusting to spending the long weekends in two, or more, households, there will have to be some degree of compromise. It is important to have an open mind with respect to alternating schedules each year as well as accommodating potential travel and/or activity plans.
  5. Children Come First
    1. Perhaps the most important tip of all, always remember that the children come first! Holidays are not about catering to the parents, it is about ensuring that the children enjoy the same with both parents, regardless of the situation. Always leave the children out of any conflict associated with the separation or divorce, listen to what suggestions your children may have about scheduling the long weekends, and above all, let your children know that you are there to support them during this new adjustment.
  6. Sell the Vacation home
    1. Another option is for neither party to use the vacation home, and instead prep for selling. Having a good realtor is critical to survive today’s housing market for vacation homes. Selling may be in the best interest of the children and parents in the long run. The less assets to argue over, the easier the divorce process can be. Agreeing to a realtor can be a difficult choice. Charlotte Marshall at Maxwell Realty Invermere told us that in 2021, home sales increased 20.7% across Canada compared to 2020, and housing inventory hit an all-time low. With this lack of supply, Canada’s housing markets saw record-breaking home sales and price growth in 2021. If you are thinking of selling your vacation home, it would be a good time to look into the options to do so to get top dollar.

Remember – working together may seem like a painful task but it will always benefit the children in the long run.

If you have any questions regarding parenting schedules or different solutions to your vacation homes, please contact Wells Family Law for a free phone or in-person consultation. If you are looking to sell your vacation home, contact our friend Charlotte Marshall at MaxWell Realty for her take on the market and current trends.