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Halloween, the forgotten holiday on child custody parenting plans

Witches riding broomsticks. Carving jack-o-lanterns. An overdose of candy corn. And watching Hocus Pocus for the 50th time. These are just a few things that are commonly associated with Halloween.

Halloween is more than just uncanny movies and an overindulgence of sugar. It has a cultural and – dare I say- religious significance. Celebrated on the last day of October, Halloween dates back to the Celtic festival of Samhain (Samhain means end of summer). Samhain is an ancient mandatory pagan celebration lasting three days and three nights. Celebrants believed that this day marked a unique intertwinement of the physical and spirit world. Many wore costumes to conceal their identities from phantoms. Participants ventured door to door serenading and chanting prayers for family and friends in exchange for soul cakes, shortcake biscuits. Irish and Scottish migrants spread this practice to North America. Today Halloween is an annual, highly anticipated celebration of candy, costumes, spooks, and well…memorable human interactions. Many Christian churches even observe Halloween but denounce its “diabolic’ undertone. Wholesome alternatives are created like Fall festivals, “Trick or Trunk,” and “Hall-o-Jesus”- a mild twist with a firm costume restriction.

So why is this unique but largely celebrated holiday often excluded from parenting plans? O.C.G.A § 19-9-1 allows for parties to jointly or independently prepare a parenting plan in all cases in which child custody is an issue. A parenting plan is a detailed schedule on how the parties will share custody and execute visitation. It may also include how the parties will share holidays, birthdays, and school breaks with the minor child(ren). Christmas and Thanksgiving are always at the top of the agenda for serious negotiations. Even Monday holidays are considered a high value. Halloween is often grouped into the “others” category, which tends to follow the normal visitation schedule.

Some might argue that Americans are not as engaged in Halloween. Statistics refute that claim. Research shows that Americans will spend a record $10.14 billion on Halloween this year. The average American will spend an estimated $102.74 on candy, costumes, greeting cards, decorations and more. This is a $2 billion dollar increase from the 2020 Halloween expense report. Comparatively, it falls short to the $990.00 that the average American spends on Christmas. Nevertheless, there appears to be a growing interest in Halloween.

Irrespective of spiritual and religious beliefs, Halloween is a prime opportunity to create unforgettable memories with children and loved ones. It is a prime opportunity to gain insight on a child’s style preferences with costume try-on hauls, or learn more about a child’s taste buds with candy variations, or simply an opportunity to light the fireplace and share in some spooky ghost tales. If you have a legal matter concerning child custody, consider listing Halloween, or its cultural equivalent like the Spanish Día de los Muertos, the Indian Pitru Paksha, or the Nigerian Awuru Odo Festival, as a stand-alone holiday on parenting plans. It can be strategically used to increase your parenting time while immersing in a cultural celebration with your loved ones.

And isn’t that what it’s really all about.

Essie Ndem