Sharing custody of a child is never easy for any parent, but come the holiday season, sharing custody can be even more painful. Both parents want to take their little one trick-or-treating, and both want to see the look of joy on their child's face as he or she experiences Christmas morning for the first time. Unfortunately, in divorce cases, it is rarely possible for both parents to be there with the child for every major event. However, that does not mean that one parent should never get to spend Christmas with his or her little one, or that the other parent should never be able to see his or her daughter run from door to door asking for candy. With a sound holiday schedule, both parents can ensure that they get ample time with their little during the holiday season.

Sharing custody of a child is never easy for any parent, but come the holiday season, sharing custody can be even more painful. Here are some tips to help.

Common Ways That Divorced Parents Share Holiday Time

Not every divorced couple's shared parenting schedule looks the same. In fact, the lawyers at Cordell and Cordell suggest that customized plans often work out the best. That said, successful holiday parenting plans often follow the same format. Below are a few common ways that divorce parents divide time during the holidays:

  •       Split the holiday in half. It is not uncommon for divorced parents to split a holiday 50/50. For instance, one parent may wake up with the child on, say, Thanksgiving, and have him or her until noon, at which point the other parent will get custody. While this type of holiday schedule works to some extent, it is not very fair to the child, who will spend much of any given holiday traveling.
  •       Alternate holidays every other year. While this type of schedule is difficult for parents to accept, as it means that each parent will miss spending a full holiday without the child, it's often the best arrangement for the child. Over the years, both parents come to appreciate the quality time they do get with their child every other year.
  •       Assign fixed holidays. Some parents find it best to maintain a strict holiday schedule. When devising a shared parenting plan, both parents will select different holidays that mean the most to them and agree that those holidays are the ones on which they get custody every year.

Holidays With Special Considerations

Most parents account for the major holidays when drafting their shared parenting plans, but many forget about the smaller, lesser-known holidays. However, it is just as important to account for holidays such as 4th of July and President's Day weekend as it is to take Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter into consideration. The lawyers at Cordell and Cordell encourage parents to account for the following holidays when drafting their parenting plans:

  •       Birthdays: Parents can either decide to alternate years for the child's birthday or to set aside time for a short visit for the parent who doesn't have custody on the child's birthday. Some parents agree to let the child celebrate with each parent on his or her birthday.
  •       Mother and Father's Day: Typically, court documents automatically include stipulations for Mother and Father's days, but legal professionals suggest that parents include a provision regarding these holidays just in case.
  •       Long Breaks: Throughout any given year, a child will enjoy several weeks or even months off of school. It's important that both parents get equal time with the child during those relaxing interludes from school. Professionals suggest accounting for school breaks when devising a shared parenting plan.

If you and your child's other parent are thinking about divorce, or if you are in the midst of a divorce, do yourselves a favor and discuss a fair holiday schedule. Your attention to this issue now will save you, your child, and your child's other parent a lot of headache in the future.