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Child Custody During the Holidays


Most children love holidays. More holidays means time off, food and parties. However, children with parents who are divorced, separated, or apart may have some anxiety about where, or who, they may be spending their extra free time with. A set child custody agreement beforehand can help both parents and children spend New Year’s, Christmas, and other holidays with less apprehension and more fond memories.  

Child and Parent Sitting by the Fire.Arranging Child Custody for the Holidays  

The court will generally accept a custody agreement that the parents come up with. A good custody agreement should take into account holidays and school breaks. Holidays often lead to significant disagreement for parents since parents and their extended families want the children to stay with them for certain days. Figuring out holiday schedules can be especially challenging if the parents live far from one another. Here are a few common techniques that parents use to share custody of children over the holidays:  

  • Alternating Holidays – Parents alternate custody for holidays. One parent has custody during Thanksgiving and the other parent has custody during Christmas. The holidays rotate from year to year so that the child spends the same holiday with a different parent between each calendar year.  
  • Divided Holidays – The child splits their time with each parent during a holiday. For instance, the first parent may spend time with the children from Friday after school until Saturday evening, and the second parent from Saturday evening until Sunday evening. 
  • Observed Holidays – Many holidays such as Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day fall o on a Monday. Parents can choose to let the child stay with the parent who normally has custody on a Monday and let the other parent have the “floating” holidays that fall on a non-Monday, such as the Fourth of July or Halloween.  
  • Holidays Dedicated to One Parent – The child spends time with each parent on a respective holiday. For instance, the child stays with the father on Father’s Day and on the father’s birthday.  
  • Unchanged Schedules – Parents can leave the custody schedule unchanged and assumed custody regardless of what holidays occur.  

These options are not mutually exclusive. Child custody arrangements can be made in a number of ways. Children can have alternating holidays between major holidays like New Years and the Fourth of July and spent Mothers or Fathers Day with the respective parent. Or parents can agree to alternate Thanksgiving and New Years and divide Christmas Day between them. A little creativity can great a great deal of holiday joy for your children. 

What Happens If a Custody Order Is Violated?  

Child custody orders are legally binding and must be followed by a child’s parents. Violating a custody order could carry severe penalties, including:  

  • Contempt of Court: the parent may be held in contempt of court which may lead to further punishment; 
  • Fines: The court may order the parent to pay a monetary fine;  
  • Loss of Custody or Visitation: The parent may lose custody or visitation rights; or 
  • Criminal Punishment: In some cases, the person may be subject to criminal consequences including criminal charges for kidnapping or even jail time.  

Do I Need a Lawyer for My Family Law Issue? 

If you have difficulty seeing your child as the holidays approach, you should contact a family lawyer today. A skilled family lawyer can answer your questions, provide guidance on your case, and represent your best interests in court. 


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