Your Parenting Plan for the Holidays

The Holidays are quickly approaching, and ideally, they are peaceful and free of conflict with your ex or soon to be ex. To help keep the holidays peaceful, it is best to address numerous issues that often come up in the Parenting Plan. Even if you are currently getting along with your ex or soon to be ex now, unfortunately, things don’t always remain peaceful. Therefore, it is best to think ahead and consider changing family structures when creating your Parenting Plan to minimize disagreements in the future. If you already have a Parenting Plan, you may be able to modify the plan if your ex agrees or if there is a substantial change of circumstances warranting modification. Thus, if you’re currently creating your Parenting Plan, or if you think your existing Parenting Plan should be modified, we wanted to review some of the issues that arise when thinking about the holidays – specifically the Fall/Winter holidays, including Thanksgiving.


First things first

In creating your Parenting Plan, there are often costs associated with some of the items below. It should be noted on the Parenting Plan the payment responsibility of each parent if not already accounted for in your Marital Settlement Agreement. The specifics are based on a case-by-case situation since financial circumstances are different in each case. It is essential to try and agree on these issues now as there needs to be a substantial change in circumstances in order to modify the Parenting Plan if your ex does not agree. In certain circumstances, there may be a basis to modify the Parenting Plan even over your ex’s objection. In that case, a Supplemental Petition for Modification will need to be filed with the court. Even if your ex does agree, it is best to formalize the modifications with the court so that you have an enforceable judgment if conflicts arise. Should that be necessary, we would be more than happy to assist you with the modification process.

First, think about the holidays important to you, carefully considering Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Once you solidify your list, answer these questions:

  • Will you need to travel? Or do you want the opportunity to travel in the future?
  • Will you need to travel out of the country? Or would you like to have that option open should the opportunity arise?
  • Even though neither of you has significant others now, what will happen if one or the other of you have one in the future. While it seems nice to continue holidays together for the sake of the children, is that practical if there is someone else in the picture in the future?

Here are some suggestions that we have commonly seen in Parenting Plans to help direct you to your final decision. 

Thanksgiving / Fall Break

Take a look at your child’s school calendar. If you have a Fall Break, most times, those are a full week, so you could:

  • Split the week.
    • This works for short travel plans.
  • Take the entire week, and the other parent takes the entire week the following year, and so on.
    • This would allow more travel time and more quality time to visit family and friends further away.  
  • Some parents take the full Thanksgiving Day, and then the other parent takes the day after, and then that alternates each year.
    • Keep in mind that makes traveling more difficult. You could work together to take time before or after Thanksgiving to travel, but it would limit your time away on Thanksgiving Day.
    • This also provides many transitions for the children, so this might not work for your situation if that is an issue.
  • Some parents also split Thanksgiving Day.
    • Keep in mind that although that might be convenient for your families if they are close by, consider the kids and how much shuffling around that might be and how it could affect them. This also typically means one family agreeing to a Thanksgiving lunch with the kids and the other family having Thanksgiving dinner with the kids.  

Winter Holidays

Please note that while we mention Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, we completely understand that there is a myriad of ways that families celebrate the winter season, and this should be adjusted accordingly.

With this particular break for schools, this can be two and up to sometimes, three weeks. You could:

  • Each takes a week or split the entire Winter Break, with each party having the children for half of the time the children are out of school.
    • If Christmas falls within that week, you could rotate those weeks each year.
  • Keep your regular schedule, and then split Christmas Day.
    • Again, as stated in the Thanksgiving portion, be mindful of your children and the fact that this particular holiday tends to be centered around the children, and shuffling them too much in one day can be draining on their emotions.
    • When your children become teenagers, it can become increasingly more challenging to wake them on Christmas morning. If you must split the day, you’ll have more than a dry turkey to worry you. 
  • One parent could take Christmas Eve and the other parent Christmas Day, and then you reverse that each year.
    • Remember, this could hinder any travel plans that you need or want to make.
    • Again, this could become cumbersome if you have teenagers when trying to wake them Christmas morning to get them to the other parent’s house.
  • For Hanukkah or Kwanzaa (both celebrated for numerous days and nights,) you could take that week one year and the other parent next year.
  • You could split the days that Hanukkah or Kwanzaa fall on, each taking a few days at the beginning of your celebration, and then the other parent taking the last half and then alternate it the next year and so forth.

No matter what you decide when it comes to building the Fall/Winter holiday portion of your Parenting Plan, we want you to know that first and foremost, your child’s emotions and needs should be considered first. This is not easy on them, and although “Oh! Two houses, more presents!” seems like fun initially, it can become draining to them if you and your ex aren’t willing to work together to make their holidays memorable in a positive way. Try to think ahead and plan gifts if you can. It is not a competition in your child’s mind, and most times, they want to see everyone happy, and that honestly will make you just as happy. If they get a gift at the other parent’s house and they are excited to tell you – listen to them and be just as enthusiastic as they are. Share their excitement of the season through their eyes.

 We hope this information helps – but should you need assistance with your Parenting Plan or any other family law matter, please reach out to us at (407) 403-5990