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Child custody and the holidays

On Behalf of | Dec 8, 2022 | Child Custody |

A scheduling or visitation order or an agreed-upon parenting plan may not be able to withstand the stress, activities and evolving schedules associated with the holidays. Planning ahead can help prevent legal problems and reduce stress.

Children first

Courts make child custody decisions by determining the best interests of the children. This consideration should also apply to holiday custody and visitation schedules.

Families become divided after divorce, which may double the number of holiday events and pose conflicts. Even if you lose time with the children, allow them to spend time with their other parent. Assure them that you want them to enjoy that time. The children’s enjoyment is also the most important consideration in deciding how their time will be spent.

But there may be times, especially in abuse cases, where spending time with the abuser’s family should not occur.


Agreeing to a schedule with your spouse and what everyone will do can avoid stress and confusion. Put the plan in writing before the holidays. Be as pleasant as possible during these conversations.

Listen to your children

Tell your children the holiday plan as soon as possible. Allow them to share their feelings if they are upset that they cannot celebrate with both parents together. Assure them that the separation is not their fault and recognize their anger and disappointment.


Parents should agree on the gifts they will each give to their children before the holidays. Compromise to help prevent disagreements. If possible, split the costs of more expensive gifts.

Both parents should try to give the same number of gifts. Assist your children with picking out a gift for their other parent.


Parents must be non-confrontational when dropping off and picking up their children. Consider what may make you angry with the other parent beforehand.
Schedule the exchange in a public place and have another non-involved person help if you believe there may be arguments or a confrontation.

Court orders

Parents must follow court orders or parenting plans and any terms governing holiday visitation. But rushing to court over a scheduling dispute is placing a low priority on your children.

As much as possible, be willing to compromise for the children’s best interest. If the court ordered supervised visitation, be sure to follow all of the conditions to ensure your children’s safety.

Attorneys can help parents develop a visitation and custody plan that is in the children’s best interest. They can also represent parents in court and settlement negotiations.

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