A child custody holiday schedule might not be everyone’s first thought on December 1st. Though as the holidays’ plans approach, many families may think about this holiday visitation schedule as much as the decorations, presents, and all other related preparations. Let’s face it: the holidays can be tough on parents, children and more.

Whether you like it or not, divorce is all about making compromises, regardless of the season. Everything from where you live to how much of your money you’ll get to keep is up for scrutiny, and things only get more complicated when children are in the picture—an issue most people aren’t too excited to compromise on. Holidays only complicate things, as neither parent wants to spend important holidays without seeing their children.

It may be difficult to get exactly what you want 100 percent of the time. However, with the help of an experience Houston family lawyer, there are a number of approaches that divorcing couples can take to ensure that child custody holiday and visitation schedules are distributed equally and fairly.

Which holidays matter in your visitation schedule?

In the eyes of Texas state law, there is no definitive list of holidays that affect a custody agreement. While this might sound strange at first, it makes sense when you consider how many different holidays there are tied to families with different religions. For instance, a Jewish couple might not be concerned about custody during the Easter holiday (and vice versa), and there is no legal obligation to rearrange your custody agreement around that holiday. This is why it can be highly beneficial to cordially discuss a child custody holiday schedule in advance. In other words, you and your ex decide on the holidays that matter to you and your family.

The days you and your ex decide on are given “special consideration”, meaning that they can deviate from your usual custody split. These days include but are not limited to:

  • Your child’s birthday
  • Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving weekend
  • Christmas holiday month
  • Three-day holiday weekends (MLK Day, President’s Day, etc.)

Once you and your spouse formally agree on the holidays that matter to you and your family, you can then set up a holiday visitation schedule.

Creating a holiday visitation schedule

In the state of Texas, there are no hard and fast rules for distributing child custody schedules during the holidays—it’s up to you and your ex to decide when and how you will divide custody on the days that matter to you and your children. Unless one parent is deemed legally unfit, the following are some of the more common approaches to handling holidays in a visitation schedule.

  • Alternating holidays: In this approach, parents switch off custody during every other holiday. For example, if your ex-wife had your children on Thanksgiving, you would get to have them on Christmas. In some alternating holiday custody agreements, the schedule can reverse year to year so that you get to spend one of each holiday with your children within that two-year period (ex. If your wife had your child on their birthday last year, you would get them this year).
  • Schedule early holiday visits: Another popular compromise in creating a child custody holiday schedule is to choose two days within a holiday season and split custody so that both parents can have their day to celebrate with their child. For instance, one parent might get Christmas Eve and the other would get Christmas Day. This approach works well for parents who live in the same city or state and can help your children get the most out of a holiday season.
  • Split the holiday in half: Similarly, some parents choose to divide major holidays in half, with one parent getting the child during the day, and the other taking custody at night. Though potentially stressful, this approach can help your child maintain relationships with both sides of their family and allows everyone to get at least some of what they want out of the holiday each year.
  • Assign fixed holidays: In some cases, parents may decide that certain holidays will be consistently spent with one parent over the other. For instance, mom throws better parties so she keeps birthdays, but Dad and his family are more religious, so they keep Easter. While this is not the most common type of child custody holiday schedule, it can be a logical choice for families with geographical or religious differences that need to be taken into consideration. Additionally, these setups can be requested based on the overall preferences of the child. If you know your child has a special tradition with their mom or dad revolving around a certain holiday, it may make more sense to just let that parent have that holiday outright.
  • Standard Possession Order (SPO): Most custody court cases include an SPO, which is a court-ordered procedure for separated parents who cannot agree upon a schedule to divide visitation time with their child (3+ years of age). The basic terms of the order allow for the noncustodial parent to visit every other odd weekend of the month (starting from the first weekend), Thursday evenings for a few hours, alternating holidays and approximately 30 consecutive days during summer vacation. These rules pertain to separated parents who live within 100 miles from each other. Special stipulations apply to parents who live more than 100 miles apart and for children under three years old. Note: The terms can be renegotiated if parents can agree upon a better schedule for all parties, especially if it is in the best interest of the child.

Create a Holiday Custody Agreement That Works For You

Reaching a fair holiday visitation schedule requires more than just a plan—you need a strong child custody lawyer to reach a fair deal. As one of the foremost Houston custody lawyers and family law specialists, Taly Thiessen can help you every step of the way. Her experience ranges from understanding how to win a child custody case to making a fair prenup in Texas, navigating complex child support cases in Texas, and more. Don’t risk entering an unfair custody agreement and losing the visitation rights that matter to you—contact Houston divorce lawyer and custody attorney Taly Thiessen at the Thiessen Law Firm today to get your case off to the right start.

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