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What to do about child custody and the holidays

The holidays are one area that you and your divorcing spouse should consider when drawing up a co-parenting plan. (If either of you contests the divorce and it is likely to result in a trial, a judge may be the one to decide on holidays and other critical child custody issues.)

As long as you and your spouse work collaboratively, you two are in control and able to consider a wide range of options. Here is a look at what some couples successfully do as far as holidays go.

Celebrating some (or all) holidays together

If your divorce is amicable, you and your spouse may prefer to just be together during the holidays. That means both of you get 100 percent of the time with your children. The children, too, get 100 percent of their parents. Alternatively, you may decide on this arrangement for some holidays, not all.

Splitting a day

Maybe you can have the children until, say, 3 p.m. on Christmas, while your spouse has them after that until 11 p.m. Splitting a holiday lets the children spend time with both of you on the holiday itself.

Alternating holidays

Another option is to alternate holidays. That is, perhaps one spouse has the kids on Christmas and the other has Christmas Eve and Thanksgiving one year, while you reverse who has what the following year.

The natural order of events

If your joint custody arrangement calls for the children to alternate weeks with each parent, the holiday agreement could be that the kids simply stay with the parent they are supposed to be with that week (or month).


Maybe you have holidays you feel strongly about that your spouse does not really care about (and vice versa). Thus, it could be possible for you to have the children on the same holiday every year.

As you discuss these considerations with your spouse, keep in mind any holiday traditions you have. For example, do you tend to fly every December to spend a week with your parents around Christmastime? In such cases, you might need to negotiate for a week instead of a day. Flexibility and the ability to compromise go a long way, and with older children, you may also decide to let the children choose for themselves what they want.

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