One of the hardest issues to deal with when coming to a custody agreement with your spouse is the holiday schedule. You are used to spending every holiday with your children every year. Now that you are separating from your spouse or partner, you will have to share holidays. There are several ways to split holidays in a custody agreement. There is no one right way to split holidays – you should choose an option that fits in with your family’s traditions.

Option 1: Alternate Holidays

Most families find it easiest to alternate holidays. This means that each parent will spend every other holiday with their children. The following year, the parties will switch holidays. For example, in even years, mom would have the children on Thanksgiving, New Years Eve, and Easter, while dad would have the children on Christmas, Mardi Gras, and Memorial Day. In odd years, dad would have the children on Thanksgiving, New Years Eve, and Easter, while mom would have the children on Christmas, Mardi Gras, and Memorial Day. This option has two benefits: (1) there is no need to shuttle the children back and forth on each holiday and (2) it allows parents to split school holidays more easily. If the holidays are alternated, the child can spend the whole Thanksgiving break with one parent and the whole winter break with the other parent. *Note that some parents choose to separate the winter break in half given the length. This option is especially helpful if parents or families live out of town. The downside to alternating holidays is that you have to spend half of the holidays each year without your children.

Option 2: Split Time on Holiday

Some families prefer to split time with the children on each holiday. This allows both parents to spend time with the children on every holiday (or the major holidays). This option can be accomplished in a couple ways.

Parents can alternate major holidays by splitting the “holiday eve” and the “holiday day”. For example, the kids may spend Christmas Eve with mom and Christmas Day with dad and then New Years Eve with mom and New Years Day with dad. The parents can either keep the same schedule every year or alternate: in even years mom had Christmas Eve and New Years Eve, in odd years mom has Christmas Day and New Years Day.

Alternatively, the parents can split the day in half for each holiday. The kids are with mom on Christmas Day from wake-up to noon and with Dad from noon to day after Christmas. Again, the parties can alternate years or keep the same times each year. I find this option to be the least desirous way to split the holidays as it creates a lot of rushing around. However, some families need the structure of this type of holiday share. I find that most parents who have a very hard time getting along work best with this type of holiday share. Additionally, this holiday share option is best for families who do not have joint custody. If the children do not have overnight visits with one parent, the parties can agree that the children will spend a portion of each holiday or alternating holidays with that parent.

Option 3: Spend Holidays Together

A small portion of families are able to continue spending holidays together with their children as they did while married. Obviously, this is not going to work for everyone. However, if you and your former spouse continue to get along after your separation, continuing to spend holidays together will help keep some normalcy for your children and allow you to continue to spend holidays with your children as you did pre-separation.

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