Holiday Custody Schedules for Your Children

Children of divorced or separated parents thrive on schedules so they can anticipate where they'll be and so they have information about their upcoming events. A holiday custody schedule allows everyone to play their part in making the holidays a peaceful, low-conflict time.

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What is a holiday custody schedule?

A holiday custody schedule is the part of your visitation schedule that outlines where your children will be during the holidays throughout the calendar year. You and the other parent must agree to a custody schedule as part of your divorce proceedings.

Many parents create a holiday custody schedule using a custody calendar program, such as Custody X Change. This award-winning online app lets you create a calendar from templates, then customize it to fit your family's unique schedule.

The holidays are meant to be spent with loved ones doing fun activities and participating in memorable traditions. But without a holiday custody schedule to guide visitation, the holidays could cause major battles between you and the other parent, with your children stuck in the middle.

How do I make a holiday custody schedule for my children?

You can create your own custody and visitation schedule (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with a lawyer or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of a lawyer, and want to easily make your own schedule, you can use Custody X Change.

Do I have to include a holiday custody schedule in my parenting plan?

A custody schedule is a necessary part of your parenting plan and the family court wants to see how you and the other parent agree on visitations, including over the holidays that occur year-round.

The parenting plan is required in many states as part of your divorce proceedings. The custody schedule, also known as the visitation schedule, outlines visitation between the custodial parent and the noncustodial parent.

Besides holiday arrangements, the custody schedule usually includes:

  • Residential schedule. This is your children's standard schedule that cycles each week. It includes typical school days, typical after school activities and typical visitation.
  • Vacation schedule. This portion covers school breaks and vacations that are not considered proper holidays.
  • Special events. This addresses times that don't fit within other sections, such as birthdays or time with extended family members

Planning for the holidays using a custody schedule can eliminate conflict between you and the other parent. You can divide up the holidays any way you see fit, as long as it puts the children's best interests over your own.

What should my holiday custody schedule cover?

The holiday custody schedule should cover several things, from where the children will be on each holiday to the exact times for pick-up and drop-off. It should be as fair and stable as possible to the children, even if that means inconveniencing you and the other parent.

Among the topics your holiday schedule should cover include:

  • A list of all the holidays in the calendar year, including national, religious and school holidays
  • Where your children will be each holiday, with an attempt to give approximately equal time with each parent during the year
  • The times and days that each holiday begins and ends, so that pick-ups and drop-offs are clear and fair
  • What happens if a holiday visit must be missed, such as for a sick child or a shifting work schedule
  • The steps you and the other parent will take if there are disagreements down the road, such as a mediation session

To make a holiday custody schedule, use the award-winning software Custody X Change. The program is easy to use — just select the holidays and type in pick-up and drop-off times. The software compiles all your answers into a calendar that you can print out or upload to your mobile devices.

What if the other parent doesn't agree with my holiday schedule?

Ideally, you and the other parent will work together on a holiday schedule that you both agree on, but you can still proceed even if the other parent won't agree.

At your custody hearing, you can present a sample holiday schedule that you've created on your own that reflects what you think is best for your children. The other parent can submit a sample schedule as well. The judge will evaluate both schedules to determine if one better represents what is best for the children.

Ultimately, the family court wishes to see a custody schedule that shows stable and generous holiday visitations. If you can show the judge that your sample represents what is best for your children, he or she may approve it as is or with modifications.

It's possible that the judge may also find the other parent's sample schedule to be better for the children and approve it as is or with modifications.

Often, when parents cannot agree on a custody schedule that divides up the holidays, the judge may order them to work together with a mediator to work out a custody schedule they can both agree on.

Use Custody X Change software to create your sample holiday custody schedule to print out for the family court to review. The clean, detailed schedule can help you confidently present your opinions to the judge.

What age guidelines apply when creating a holiday custody schedule?

When you create a holiday custody schedule, visits should be age-appropriate for your children. Knowing a little about healthy child development can help.

Here are some age guidelines to keep in mind when creating a holiday custody schedule:

  • Infants and toddlers. Avoid long separations from the primary caregiver and don't plan on overnight visits as a rule. Frequent contact with the absent parent via telephone or video chat helps to reassure the child.
  • Preschool and young elementary. Single overnights work well for this age group, with frequent contact with the custodial parent. Routines are important for children, so keep similar schedules at both residences.
  • Older elementary. Flexible and energetic, this age group is the most versatile when it comes to holiday visitations. Longer or more frequent visitations work well for this group.
  • Junior high and high school. While this age group can handle longer separations, other factors often interfere with visitations, such as employment, extracurricular activities, friends or dating.

Keep your holiday schedule centered around beloved traditions, whether old or new, to keep kids excited about being with family. Also, avoid having children shuffle between houses too frequently and give them a chance to settle in and enjoy the festivities.

Above all, remember that most holidays are primarily for children and their parents to take a break from regular life, enjoy special food and activities and grow closer together. With a detailed holiday custody schedule, both parents can enjoy the holidays with their children.

Can I revise the holiday custody schedule in a few years?

You can petition the family court to revise your holiday custody schedules when you feel like the current setup is no longer representing your children's best interests. The court understands that life events cause changes, especially when children get older.

The process requires you to fill out paperwork that details the changes you want to take place. It's helpful to propose a revised custody schedule, which you can do with Custody X Change software.

Submit the paperwork to your local family court, then attend a hearing to answer questions about the request. You may be asked to provide evidence on how the current schedule is not meeting your children's needs with regard to holiday visitations.

If you can convince the judge that the revised schedule is better for everyone involved, especially your children, it's likely you'll get the revised holiday schedule approved.

The easiest way to make a holiday custody schedule

There's a lot to think about when you build a holiday schedule. You'll want it to address weekend and midweek holidays, reflect special occasions unique to your family (like birthdays) and work for years to come.

The Custody X Change app makes it easy. Just open your Custody X Change calendar and follow our steps to make a holiday schedule.

To make a custody schedule quickly and affordably, turn to Custody X Change. You'll get written and visual versions that meet your family's needs, as well as court standards.

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