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Splitting the Kids at Christmas: How Divorced Couples Cope


Splitting the Kids at Christmas

Divorce is difficult and it’s especially hard for families to split the kids up at Christmas.  We often place high expectations on Christmas.  These expectations may stem from a family tradition and may be triggered by the sights, sounds, and smells of Christmas.  Nonetheless, for parents who are apart, it’s critical to establish a shared custodial schedule that allows children to share time with both parents over the Christmas holiday and structure the holiday in a way that such traditions can be maintained — even if slight alterations of schedule are required.

Ways to Split Time

  • Split the Christmas Break — Most of our judges will split the Christmas break into two halves.  The first half starts with the release from school for the Christmas Break until Christmas Day (25th) or the next day (26th).  The second half runs from this date until school resumes.  Mom may get the first half in even numbered years and the second half in odd numbered years with dad having the first half in odd numbered years and the second half in even numbered years.
  • Alternate Christmas Break — We see this less often but when the distance is significant or the parents prefer it, this is a valid option.  One parent has the entire Christmas Break in even numbered years and the other parent has the entire Christmas break in odd numbered years.
  • Divide the Actual “Day” — Some parents prefer to maintain the regular custodial schedule and then simply divide the holiday rather than the entire break.  They may also opt to alternate Christmas Eve.
  • Special Share Options — We have seen families agree to special time sharing options which maintain their family traditions.  In rare cases, we have seen parents actually spend the time together but this approach often fails when new romantic interests or partners are added to the mix in future years.  Even if the parents can deal with it, mom’s new boyfriend or dad’s new girlfriend may nix the approach.

Important Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do encourage your child(ren) to spend time with both parents and help them make a positive transition
  • Don’t call the kids everyday.  Let them enjoy their time with the other parent.
  • Do celebrate Christmas twice
  • Don’t make your kids feel guilty
  • Do understand that child(ren) have a range of emotions and may indicate they do not want to visit the other parent and then act the same way when returning to you
  • Don’t grill the kids about what they did with the other parent
  • Do explain to the kids where they will be to encourage a positive experience
  • Don’t put the kids in the middle of any disputes.  Deal with the other parent instead

Court Order

If you don’t have a Court Order which specifies the time sharing plan, you probably need one.  It is especially important to get this order in place regarding Christmas and other holidays while you are getting along.  Contact Rice Law for assistance in getting this order in place.