Custody and The Holidays

December 21, 2018

Christmas is typically filled with tradition. Maybe you head to the Christmas Eve service followed by dinner at grandmas. Or maybe it’s Christmas Eve with the In-laws and Christmas day with your parents.  But if you share custody of your kids, traditions may be difficult to maintain and could possibly even have to change.

A typical custody schedule issued by the Court includes a holiday schedule laying out with which parent the kids will spend each holiday.  Most often, the holidays included are Easter, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor day, Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve and Christmas day.  Some parents may rotate holidays on an every other year basis.  Others split each holiday into two separate periods of custody.  When it comes to Christmas, the norm is that one parent has the child Christmas Eve through Christmas morning with the other parent having the remainder of Christmas day to celebrate the holiday with their kids.  This can be quite the adjustment for both the parents and kids alike.  For some tips on how to make the change a little easier on all involved, check out my post from last year.

Ideally, you can create a new tradition that is flexible to your changing schedule.  I was fortunate in that my family was more than happy to help create new traditions.  While my aunt always cooked Christmas Eve, and my mother Christmas day, we changed it up to help make the day more enjoyable and special for the kids.  Our new tradition is that whichever day the kids are at our house, we host Christmas dinner and whoever can make it is welcome. And my mom and aunt take turns cooking dinner when the kids aren’t with us.

If you’re not able to create a new tradition to fit your holiday, you may be able to make changes to your custody order.  Typically the easiest way to adjust a custody schedule is if both parties are able to agree.  If the two of you are able to work together and figure it out on your own, go ahead and do what works best for the both of you.  Hopefully the other parent is familiar with your family’s Christmas traditions and may be willing to let that tradition continue so that your kids get to enjoy it too.  However, as too many know, this is often not the case.

If one parent is not willing to change it up, your only option is to ask the Court to make the change.  This requires paperwork to be filed with the Court and notice to the other parent.  And you’re going to want an attorney to help you navigate the process. Unfortunately, this process takes some time so it must be started at least a few weeks before Christmas.  So if you can’t agree on this year’s schedule, you’re stuck.  But it’s never too early to think about next year.  So after the holidays, you may want to review your current order to determine if any changes need to be made so that you don’t find yourself in the same position in 2019.

Happy holidays to all!  It’s been said that holidays bring out the best in family dysfunction but best wishes to everyone for a holiday filled with family, fun and happiness no matter where you are celebrating.

Kathleen Krafft Miller is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University and regularly advises individuals on legal matters related to family law and domestic relations issues.