Five Ways to Split the Holidays

There are unlimited ways for you and your co-parent to split the holidays to make the most of special occasions throughout the year. Each family situation is unique, so customize a plan that works best for you and your co-parent.
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The holidays are a joyous season to celebrate with family and friends. However, now that you and your ex decided to split, you also have to split time with your children. With the holiday season in full swing, you might wonder how your children will spend the holidays once your divorce is finalized. The holiday schedule is typically decided as part of the custody agreement. This portion of your divorce decides all aspects of child custody including physical and legal custody. Depending on where you are in your divorce proceedings, this may already be decided or it could be on the horizon.  


Before we dive into strategies to split the holidays with your co-parent, it should be noted that this can be a painstaking process. You and your ex each have an opinion on how the children should spend the holidays and those ideas might conflict. However, do not fear, there are resources available. Regardless of where you are in your divorce proceedings, a competent attorney can be crucial in helping you achieve your goals. Consider having a consultation with a lawyer to discuss your concerns. Whether you are just starting the process or your divorce is finalized, an attorney can help you understand your options when it comes to custody agreements and the holiday schedule. Another valuable resource to use when discussing holiday schedules is a parenting coordinator. These professionals are experts in helping co-parents reach consensus on a variety of issues. A parenting coordinator is a neutral third party that is there to listen, suggest solutions, and ensure co-parents find healthy ways to communicate. Consider engaging with both of these professionals throughout the process to protect your best interests.  


If you’re wondering the best way to begin the process of negotiating a holiday schedule with your co-parent, check out What to Do When you Can’t Agree on a Holiday Schedule. This article includes a step-by-step guide on how and what to consider when making a holiday schedule with your co-parent. There are many ways parents elect to split custody over the holidays. Check out the article below for five of the most popular ways to split holidays with your co-parent. Every family is unique; pull pointers that work for your situation and modify a plan to fit your family’s needs.


Split the Holidays

One common way to handle holiday schedules is splitting the holiday between both parents. In a split situation, each parent has the children for a portion of the day. It is typical for one parent to have the children for the morning while the other parent spends the evening with the children. In this arrangement, the parents must coordinate a drop off that typically takes place in the afternoon. This arrangement works best when both co-parents find it important to be with their children on the actual date of the holiday.

  • Pros: Splitting the holidays between co-parents allows both parents to see their children on important holidays. This arrangement is beneficial if both sides of the family want access to children to celebrate a special day. Perhaps you previously split holidays between both families for their respective holiday traditions. If this is the case, a split might be the best arrangement since that was closest to how the holiday was handled in years past.
  • Cons: Splitting holidays can be stressful and logistically difficult on all parties. Co-parents often find it difficult to decide which parent gets the morning shift and which gets the evening shift. If you get the children in the morning, you get them while they are well rested and excited for the day, however, you sacrifice having them stay with you through the evening. If you get them in the evening, they are able to stay the night, but they could be exhausted from a long morning with your co-parent.


Alternate the Holidays

Many families find it easiest to alternate the holiday schedule year over year. This agreement can look different for each family, but typically if you have the children for one holiday this year, your co-parent has them for that holiday next year. This arrangement works best for parents that want unfettered access to their children for a holiday.

  • Pros: Alternating holidays means you are able to choose how the holiday is spent when it is your turn for that specific holiday. There is less concern around transporting the children between destinations or being cognizant of what the children are doing before or after they are with you.
  • Cons: Some parents find it difficult to forego time with their children when they are on their off year. Spending the holidays without your kids can be tough. Some parents find it hard to agree to an arrangement where they know they will not see their kids on an important date.


Pick the Holidays

Depending on you and your co-parents personal preferences, you may be able to reach an agreement where each parent gets the children for specific holidays every year. In this arrangement, one parent will always have the children for Christmas, for example, while the other will always have the children for Thanksgiving. This agreement works best for co-parents that prioritize holidays differently. Let’s say you do not have a lot of family and your co-parent has a very large family that always hosts Thanksgiving Day dinner. If you never cared much for Thanksgiving, but your co-parent always relished in their family celebration, maybe you allow them to take Thanksgiving every year. Perhaps you are a huge Christmas fanatic and your co-parent did not find Christmas meaningful, see if they will let you take Christmas every year.

  • Pros: When co-parents can agree to pick the holidays they want with the children every year, it cuts down on confusion and allows you to build meaningful traditions. This arrangement also allows you to spend the days you find most meaningful with your children. If you get a holiday that is personally important to you, you are more likely to spend it with your children in a meaningful way that builds wonderful memories.
  • Cons: An obvious con of this arrangement is you will never see your children on certain holidays. This can weigh heavily on co-parents as spending a family-oriented day alone can be difficult.


Change the Holidate

One solution to the holiday schedule puzzle is changing the date on which you observe a holiday. While this might seem like an odd solution at first, it can work well for some co-parents. At the end of the day, holidays are about celebrating. The exact date is not truly important to the spirit of the celebration. Perhaps your co-parent has a long-standing family tradition to spend Christmas Day together with the extended family. If this is the case, could you compromise and elect to celebrate Christmas the Friday following Christmas Day each year? This solution works best for co-parents where the holiday is important to both parents, but only one parent has a date specific event that requires the children’s attendance.

  • Pros: Both parents get to celebrate with the children each year in a way that is unique to each co-parent. This arrangement also lengthens the celebration of certain events which can be fun for the children. Lastly, this allows each parent to have their own unique traditions for each holiday that they can continue year over year.
  • Cons: It can be tough to decide which parent gets the actual holiday date with the children. This arrangement can create an unhealthy competition between co-parents trying to out-do each other.


Combine the Holidays

This last arrangement isn’t a consideration for all co-parents, but sometimes it works. If it is safe, legal, and enjoyable to do so, some co-parents elect to spend the holidays together as a family. This option is most common for co-parents that did not have a tumultuous divorce and still have a friendship. While this arrangement does not work for all situations, it is a great option for co-parents that do not mind seeing each other and still want to show up as a unit to support their children together.

  • Pros: Both parents are able to spend the day with the children in a way that is similar to how the holiday was spent before the divorce. Neither parent has to go without their children on an important day.
  • Cons: You have to spend the holiday with your ex and agree upon an activity for the entire family. Many co-parents find it difficult to spend time with their ex, but this arrangement can be popular for co-parents once the initial sting of the divorce has time to soften.


There are unlimited ways for you and your co-parent to split the holidays to make the most of special occasions throughout the year. Each family situation is unique, so customize a plan that works best for you and your co-parent. Keep in mind all of the special days throughout the year, not just the big holidays. Birthdays, special family anniversaries, and other smaller holidays should not be ignored in your planning especially if they are important to you. Take a moment to reflect and leverage our resources if you find yourself stuck in a rut.

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