It’s that time of year when visitation schedules can get particularly tricky. Scheduling visitation with kids between their divorced parents can already be emotional—so how do you agree on a schedule when both parents want the child for Christmas or Thanksgiving?

Well, no one can promise that it is easy. But you’re not alone—there are multiple scheduling options for all kinds of ex-couples…even the ones that are far from amicable.

Different Varieties of Holiday Custody Arrangements

The child can't be in two places at once, so it's time to come to a decision. Here are a few ways other divorced parents have done it.

  • Divide the holiday – One parent gets the child on Christmas morning, and the other parent gets the child on Christmas day. You both get less of the day, but you both get Christmas.
  • Alternate important holidays – One year, the mom gets the child on Christmas and the dad gets the child on Thanksgiving, the next year vice-versa.
  • Separate days to celebrate the same holiday – The child might spend Christmas Eve at one house and Christmas Day at another. Or, celebrate a week early if long travel is involved between both households.
  • Fixed holidays — Perhaps Christmas is always with mom, and Thanksgiving is always with dad.
  • The amicable mixed family – It’s rare, but sometimes divorced spouses can put aside their differences for one special day, and everyone can celebrate with their families together.
  • Court order – Last, and certainly least favorable, the court can decide how to handle the situation if the parents cannot agree. In legal terms, this is called a "contested custody or visitation" situation.

The Importance of Working with Your Ex

Like it or not, you and your ex will have to co-parent during the holidays, so have the discussion way in advance and be open to compromise.

Even if it is a bitter pill to swallow, it’s best to handle this between the two of you. Because the alternative (court intervention), is the last resort.

Remember, children should not be placed in the middle of these types of decisions. While parents are often tempted to get input or feedback from the child about how he or she wants to divide their holiday time, this is a no-no in family court, especially if the child is under the age of 14.

If You Can’t Agree on a Visitation Schedule, The Court Will Do It for You

Some ex-couples simply can't put their differences aside and end up back in court to get a forced decision.

This is a path you want to avoid, if at all possible. The court's order, whatever it might be, is strict and enforceable. Plus, it may be expensive and cause unnecessary stress on the child. It might also produce an outcome that leaves everybody feeling like they got a lump of coal in their stocking.

During a time of year that is supposed to promote peace and love, do your best to come up with a compromise solution that is best for the child without involving the court. Consider it an extra gift – from both parents to the child.

Want to Know More About Getting a Better Outcome with Visitation?

If you have questions about getting the optimal visitation schedule, contact Park Family Law. Whether you need an experienced mediator to amicably and efficiently settle your case or an aggressive litigator to get you the best result in court, Park Family Law can assist you every step of the way.