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Managing Child Custody During the Holidays


Now that it’s December, we’re deep in the holiday season. The Christmas lights have gone up in neighborhoods all over town, outdoor shopping centers have lit their gigantic Christmas trees, fireplaces are being lit, and families all over are preparing to celebrate their favorite holiday traditions. But what is usually a joyous time of year for parents, can be a different story for parents going through a divorce.

If you’re on the road to divorce and you have children with your spouse, the holiday season could be making you nervous for the first time. Will you see your children over the holidays? Will you be alone over Hanukkah or Christmas? Will you have to stop celebrating your favorite traditions with your kids? In this article, we discuss how divorcing parents typically address child custody during the holidays.

Child Custody and Annual Holidays

When you get a divorce as a parent with minor children, you and your spouse will have to reach an agreement about child custody before the divorce can be signed off by a judge. If you can’t reach such an agreement, the judge or a jury will have to decide for you, which is less than ideal because you know your children better than anyone.

Regardless if a judge is making the decision or not, the child custody agreement will address your normal everyday schedule, but it will also cover spring break, summer vacation, birthdays, and major holidays, such as Easter, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.

As your focus shifts to the holidays, you will have some options. If you have a good relationship with your ex, for example, you could decide to spend the holidays together as a family and when significant others enter the picture, you can choose to welcome. On the other hand, if you can’t see you spending the holidays together, you can choose to alternate holidays and rotate them every year with your ex. In Texas, the Standard Possession Order lays this out.

Advice for High-Conflict Families

If you have a high-conflict situation with your ex, our advice is to be very detailed in your divorce agreement about child custody over the holidays and stick to whatever is in the agreement. As time heals and emotions soften, trust should be restored, and eventually, you may be able to have more flexibility with child custody over the holidays.