How Can I Share Child Custody over the Holidays?

As the holidays approach, confusion over child custody matters can add more stress during an already hectic time of year. To prevent custody disputes, it is best to have a clear and purposeful parenting plan in place rather than figure it out as you go.

Here are some helpful coparenting tips for a peaceful and joy-filled holiday season.

Plan in Advance

Unmarried parents should create a parenting plan to outline the terms of shared custody. At a minimum, a basic parenting plan includes details about legal custody, physical custody, and child support. Many parenting agreements also address the child’s health care, education, religious involvement, and supervision by nonparents.

It is always beneficial to include a holiday custody schedule in your parenting agreement up front to prevent conflict as holidays and special events approach throughout the year. Casual agreements do not hold up in court and can only lead to miscommunication, hurt feelings, and nasty custody battles.

If you work out these details early in the divorce or custody process, you can ensure holidays parenting time is fairly divided. A holiday custody schedule also enables you to make travel arrangements and plan special events well in advance.

Also, children who know where they are spending the holidays from month to month are more likely to feel stable and secure. Finally, a written, court-ordered parenting plan helps protect you and your child if your ex-spouse tries to interfere with your parenting time.

Clearly Define Holidays

When creating your annual parenting schedule, remember to include all the major holidays along with minor holidays and special occasions that hold some importance to you and your child. Some holidays are more meaningful for one parent in particular, whereas others are equally important to both.

When in doubt about whether to mention a particular holiday in your parenting plan, err on the side of caution and add it. Your holiday schedule should be clear and succinct, with little room for interpretation.

Here is an overview of the holidays and special occasions to account for in your custody schedule:

  • Child’s birthday
  • Parents’ birthdays
  • New Year’s Day
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day
  • Presidents Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Mother’s Day
  • Easter
  • Father’s Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Rosh Hashanah
  • Yom Kippur
  • Columbus Day
  • Halloween
  • Veteran’s Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Hannukah
  • Christmas
  • Christmas Eve
  • New Year’s Eve
  • Religious holidays
  • Other family birthdays

Stay Organized with Technology 

Today’s parents are fortunate to have technology at their disposal to make coparenting a bit more convenient. Numerous coparenting apps and programs are available to streamline communication, scheduling, documentation, and even payments.

Here are a few that are recommended:

Custody X Change. This is a user-friendly cloud software that allows parents to share messages, calendars, and expenses with each other, their children, and their lawyers. It includes parenting plan templates, parenting time tracking, and online journaling to keep track of notable events and communications. Available for: Windows, iOS, and Android.

Our Family Wizard (OFW). This is one of the more versatile coparenting apps available. It includes a shared calendar with a tool to submit a request to swap parenting time. Messages sent through OFW are secure and cannot be edited or retracted. Their patented ToneMeter helps users keep communication positive and productive. OFW also offers expenses tracking and a record bank for your child’s important data. Available for: iOS and Android.

Custody Connection. Custody Connection does not come with some of the features available with the other products, but it is easy to use and includes all the essential features. Simple calendars make scheduling easy. Parents can submit trade requests through the app messaging platform and wait for the other parent to accept, reject, or suggest an alternative plan in response. Available for iOS.

Once you, your coparent, and your respective divorce lawyers decide on a parenting plan, enter it into your preferred app to make planning those special occasions all the easier.

Start New Traditions

After divorce, families must find new ways of celebrating cherished holidays and family birthdays. However, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Use your new holiday custody schedule as an opportunity to reinvent familiar traditions and make new ones.

Instead of recreating past holiday activities, mark the start of this new chapter with new activities. Make a festive craft, bake sweet treats for a neighbor or teacher, or donate your time to a local charity to create memories with your child and give them something special to look forward to year after year.

Be Open to Compromise

As mentioned, a detailed custody schedule is important, especially when it comes to holidays and other special events. With that said, we know that life is unpredictable. If your coparent is willing to work with you, consider incorporating some flexibility into your parenting plan.

For example, suppose your ex-spouse’s parents are visiting from out of town on Christmas Eve during your scheduled parenting time. Is it in your child’s best interests to spend time with their grandparents, especially if they do not get to see them on a regular basis? Try negotiating with your ex-spouse. Maybe you can swap that day with one of your ex-spouse’s scheduled holidays.

A bit of flexibility can go a long way to improve coparenting and model healthy communication and coping skills for your child.

Consult Your Child Custody Lawyer

Even if you and your ex-spouse have a harmonious coparenting relationship now, there are no guarantees you will not encounter some problems as your child grows. Things can get difficult when one parent meets a new partner, has another child, decides to relocate, or just wants to make changes to custody or support.

Your parenting plan is the primary source of protection for your custody time now and going forward. Consult an experienced child custody lawyer to negotiate fair divorce terms and protect your parenting time. Legal representation is invaluable if your ex-spouse refuses to cooperate with the parenting plan or requests modifications you do not believe are best for your child.

Common Custody Plans for Dividing Holidays and Other Special Days

Here are some various holiday parenting schedules to help you determine which best meets your needs.

  • Split holidays in half. The child spends part of the holiday with one parent and the remainder with the other. This works for parents who live near each other.
  • Celebrate holidays twice. The child can celebrate holidays twice, once with each parent.  They may celebrate once on the actual holiday, and again a few days or weeks later.
  • Alternate holidays from year to year. Parents make a list of all available holidays and assign them all to one parent or the other, alternating those holidays the following year. For example, this year the child spends Halloween with Mom and then spends it with Dad next year.
  • Assign specific holidays. The child celebrates the same holidays with the same parent every year. This works when parents each have specific holidays they believe are important. 
  • Spend the holidays together. Some coparents opt to spend the big holidays together as a family, even after divorce. This works best for those who have a positive coparenting relationship.

Sharing custody with an ex-spouse comes with its challenges. However, a well-organized holiday parenting schedule can help coparenting go a bit more smoothly. If you have questions or concerns about your coparenting plan for next year, contact a trusted child custody lawyer for guidance.

Somerville Child Custody Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C., Create Fair and Effective Parenting Plans for Clients Going Through Divorce

If you are in the process of forming a parenting plan for shared custody of your child, let the Somerville child custody lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. help. With a solid holiday custody schedule and skilled legal representation, you can trust your parental rights are protected now and in the future. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call us at 908-575-9777 or contact us online. Located in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients in Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.