First Year of Splitting Holiday Custody Requires Careful Planning

The holidays present a unique challenge for the children of divorced couples – especially in the first year. Using an attorney-negotiated schedule for the first holiday season of shared custody is critical.

Children have high expectations and parents inevitably have high anxiety levels. Children will need to be reminded that this is still special time with family and extended family will need to be updated on what’s going on with the custody agreement so that they can help meet children’s expectations.

It is best to stick to the attorney-negotiated holiday custody agreement as closely as possible and take notes on what worked best for you, what the child’s reactions were and how the agreement might be fine-tuned for next year.

Whether your agreement was to split the holidays up in the middle of the day or to give each parent a full day, keep track of how it worked for you and for the child so you can bring it up the next time the custody agreement is discussed. Chances are, discussions of the custody agreement in the moment will only add to the anxiety level.

For example, you can arrange for one spouse to have the children on Thanksgiving Day and for the other spouse to have custody for the weekend after Thanksgiving. If this arrangement did not work well for one child, but was fine with the others, some modifications might be in order. Or maybe you all agreed the children would spend Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with one parent, but Christmas night with the other parent, yet the children felt unsettled by being uprooted mid-day. Again, it is possible to revisit the agreements for next year. In the end, you may collectively decide to handle each holiday differently. Some will be shared while others are rotated annually.

Joint custody holiday schedules are more difficult to maintain than the regular weekly custody schedule that you have all become accustomed to, so it is important to be diligent and punctual for everybody’s sake.

The first holidays after a divorce can be a time for new traditions to start. Encouraging the children to be a part of the beginning of some new traditions will help make the new arrangement special for them.

Brandon child custody lawyer Joshua Law is with Osenton Law Offices, P.A. in Tampa Bay and is also a children’s rights lawyer. If you need a Brandon child custody attorney or Brandon family law attorney, call 813.654.5777 or visit