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Child custody: ‘Tis the season to be jolly?

What’s there not to be jolly about during the winter holidays if you’re a child? School is out, endless hours of fun, lots of holiday treats to eat and presents to open. But if you’re a parent who is going through a divorce or recently ended a relationship, the winter holidays present a whole new set of anxieties aside from the stresses of holiday mall shopping. You’re fretting about what you’re going to do about child custody especially during the holidays.

As the holidays are a time for celebrating family traditions, stressors are triggered as parents decide how to celebrate their traditions when they are no longer together. In a child custody action, parents should remain mindful of those traditions that are important to the other parent. If your ex’s family celebrates Christmas Eve, consider designating that holiday to your ex in exchange for you having Christmas Day or another holiday that your family always celebrates. Otherwise think about alternating the Christmas Eve holiday on an odd/even basis and splitting time with the children on Christmas Day.

When thinking of a winter vacation or holiday schedule, it is important to be reasonable and work with the other parent to ensure that the holidays remain a special time for the children. After all, your children aren’t going to have a preference as to who they spend Christmas morning with. What your children are most likely thinking about is they get to open presents in the morning with one parent, and presents in the afternoon with the other parent.

Source:, “Surviving Holidays and Vacations,” The Everything Guide to Divorce, Chap 16 (2nd ed. 2009), Milinda J. Reed, Esq.