Custody & The Holidays: What to Expect


The holidays are both a joyous and stressful time for families. If you recently went through a divorce or separation, you have another hurdle to overcome: How do you navigate child custody during this season? It is most likely that you established a parenting plan or holiday schedule during your divorce, which is good news for you. Having an organized plan to refer to come festivity time will help you and your ex-spouse act in a manner that is fair for all. If you do not have a holiday plan, it is advisable to consult with an experienced attorney before the holidays kick off to create one. To help you navigate child custody this holiday season, we have compiled a list of tips for you to reference in the event you need some assistance.

How Do I Make a Holiday Visitation Schedule?

It would be helpful to consult with a lawyer before drafting a holiday visitation schedule with your ex-spouse or partner. You will want to ensure this document is enforceable and modifiable in the event you want to make changes to it as your child(ren) get older.

Your lawyer will have prior experience creating holiday visitation schedules and can give you advice on how to split up holiday time with your child(ren) in a manner that is fair to both parents. Your lawyer can also help you accomplish the following:

  • Determine which parent will have the child(ren) during certain holidays
  • Consider what kind of visitation schedule will work best for the family (if one parent lives out of state it would be difficult to split Christmas between two households)
  • Figure out which parent will pick up and drop off the child(ren) for school festivities and holiday celebrations
  • Define which household will be responsible for celebrating certain traditions, activities, and religious ceremonies

Why Is a Holiday Visitation Schedule Important?

A holiday schedule allows parents and their children to establish rules and structure around the holidays. Such a plan enables each parent to plan for major and religious holidays with ease knowing that there is a schedule in place for which parent will be with the children during this time. It also provides the children with additional security as they know where they will be going during the holidays. A well-planned holiday schedule also reduces the possibility of disputes and arguments.

What Holidays Should I Consider?

There are many holidays and important events your child(ren) will want to celebrate. Schools often grant children three-day weekends as well for certain state holidays. Here are some of the dates you should consider when creating a holiday parenting plan:

  • Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day
  • Three-day weekends (President’s Day, Memorial Day, and/or Labor Day)
  • Mother’s and Father’s Day
  • Religious holidays
  • Birthdays
  • Winter, Fall, Spring, and Summer break
  • State holidays

What Are Some Common Ways to Split Custody Over the Holidays?

Here are some suggestions on how to divide custody over the holidays:

Alternate holidays every other year

You will get the kid(s) on even-numbered years during certain holidays and on odd-numbered years your co-parent will celebrate with them.

Split the holidays in half

This is possible if you and your co-parent are willing to do so and live close enough to accomplish this. Your kid(s) could spend the morning and early afternoon with one parent and the late afternoon and evening with the other.

Establish fixed holidays

There may be special holidays for each parent. Thus, you and your co-parent could agree to celebrate this same holiday with the kid(s) each year.

Should You Involve the Child(ren) in the Process?

While it may make sense to include your child(ren) in the initial stages of determining an appropriate and fair holiday parenting plan, it could also overwhelm them. Asking them where they would like to spend the holidays puts unnecessary pressure on them as they will feel pressured to cater to each parent and may not even be able to make a decision.

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