Christmas is a tradition dating back to 336, and through the millennia it has survived wars, pandemics, and cynics. Never doubt it can survive your divorce, too! Creative, equitable parenting time schedules are possible.
Folks at DivorceMag suggest the non-custodial parent ask for an early Christmas. For 2021, Christmas Day is a Saturday, so you could provide a Christmas dinner, give your kids their Christmas presents, and do a bit of decorating on Christmas Eve, or roll things back to the previous weekend.
Though this schedule requires a bit of planning and foresight, you can propose hosting duties in alternate years. Such a schedule ensures neither parent misses more than a year of any major holiday with the kids.
Your ex-spouse gets Christmas this year and you get it next year. You get Thanksgiving this year and your ex gets it next year; you can decide for yourselves which are significant holidays and which do not need to interrupt an existing parenting time schedule.
For school-aged children, parents can look at the entire winter break as a time for sharing the little ones. These schedules can be as detailed or flexible as the parents wish. For example, one circuit court offers this wording:
Christmas Break from School: In even-numbered years, the father shall have the child(ren) from 9:00 a.m. on the day after the last day of school before the break until 6:00 p.m. on December 25th; and in odd-numbered years, from 6:00 p.m. on December 25th until 6:00 p.m. on the day before school starts back at the end of the break, regardless of whether such conflicts with other provisions, with the mother having the child(ren) in odd-number years from 9:00 a.m. on the day after the last day of school before the break until 6:00 p.m. on December 25th; and, in even-numbered years, from 6:00 p.m. on December 25th until 6:00 p.m. on the day before school starts back at the end of the break, regardless of whether such conflicts with other provisions.
You two parents can also consider splitting the winter recess, which generally does not start on Christmas Eve. Custody Exchange offers several variations on this theme, but you two can put together your own program.
For example, for 2021 Virginia Beach Public Schools have a winter break from Wednesday, December 22 through Sunday, January 2:
- One parent — let’s say Mom — has the darlings from December 22 through Christmas Eve, December 24; three days
- On Christmas Day, Dad has the kids from the Big Day through Thursday, December 30; six days
- On New Year’s Eve, Mom gets them back for three more days until they return to school on Monday, January 3
- Each parent has six days with the kids, including one weekend each
Really: ’Twas the Night Before
Christmas Eve is part of the excitement of the holiday, too, especially with little ones. One parent can have parenting time Christmas Eve, starting immediately after work and ending at a reasonable time for a good night’s sleep. You want the small fry to wake up (dreadfully early, don’t forget!) in the other parent’s home, ready to rock their Christmas Day.
Say you have them on Christmas Eve this year. You get off work or duty at 4:30 (who works late on Christmas Eve?), meet your ex in a neutral (and warm) spot, and take your darlings until close to their bedtime. You leave cookies out for Santa, you leave the reindeer chow, you go through it all. You also let them open the presents from you. You, as a family, can decide which toys and gifts remain in your home for their future visits, and which go back with the other parent.
Then you meet your ex again at, perhaps, 9:00 p.m. with the kids already in their PJs and slippers, ready to fight sleep and then wake early for your ex.
As you and your ex-spouse work through the parenting time schedules for the holidays, remember the reason for the seasonal challenge: your kids! Never let the schedule, the divorce, or underlying issues cloud your kids’ experience.
You and your ex can choose to make the holiday merry or miserable, not only for yourselves but for your children. If your family tradition places greater importance on Christmas Eve than Christmas Day, you may have to compromise to get them every Christmas Eve. It is the season of giving, so be willing to give up something to get what you and your kids truly want.
When you reach out to us at The Firm For Men, either online or by telephoning (757) 383-9184, you connect with experienced, dedicated Virginia family law attorneys. We are here to help year-round.