United States: How Coparents Should Handle The Holidays

Last Updated: November 25 2015
Article by Nancy R. Van Tine

It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and with it all of the holidays of the season! This time of year is particularly tough for folks who are just getting used to a coparenting situation. It's also a challenging time for divorce lawyers and family courts, as lots of families are unable to settle holiday scheduling differences without recourse to the courts.

This year:

  • Thanksgiving is on November 26.
  • Hanukkah is December 6-14.
  • Christmas falls on a Friday.
  • Kwanzaa is December 26-January 1.

Work Together to Figure Out Your Schedule for the Holidays

If you haven't already created a holiday parenting schedule with your ex, you should contact them right away to work out the details. Not everyone has a plan already set either by agreement or judgment, so if you can't agree on your own you may need to contact your attorney to sort out the situation. With the timeframes for setting motion dates and the court scheduling problems that may arise, this needs to be tackled as soon as possible.

In most cases, scheduling should be possible without court intervention. There are a number of ways to share the holidays, and so many ways to create online schedules to help with coordination. Don't forget to set up a shared Google Calendar to keep track of all those holiday dates!

Some families alternate holidays every year with each parent having either Thanksgiving or Christmas and swapping the next year. You can split the holidays in half, with one taking Thanksgiving morning and one taking Thanksgiving night. Hanukkah is a little easier, as you can alternate the first and second nights, or the first and last nights, or many variations in between. Since Kwanzaa spans seven days, you also have more flexibility.

Christmas is the most widely celebrated December holiday and also the most difficult for many people, since everyone had a different experience growing up. Some families, particularly with young children, want the kids to be in their primary residence for Santa to come. Don't forget that your coparent probably wants to be with your kids as much as you do. One compromise is to split up Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. If you feel like you're getting the short end of the stick with Christmas Eve, you can always create special new Christmas Eve traditions.

Technology Can Help with Gift-Giving

Apps like Santa's Bag – Christmas Gift List and GiftPlanner can help you coordinate with your former spouse and even grandparents on who is getting the kids what. You can even create Amazon Wish Lists for each of your kids. In general it could be helpful to put together a list of the kids' sizes, needs and wishes for everyone to share.

Don't Forget Winter Vacation

If your kids are younger, you'll also have to discuss how to divide winter vacation time. You can slice and dice this time in many different ways. The parent who didn't get the "good part" of Christmas could get New Years or a bigger majority of the vacation time. The choices are pretty broad, but you should try to put the kids first. Remember that however tough it is for you, it is just as tough or tougher for them. Also, if one parent wants to plan a vacation, there are some steps you can take to keep your kids safe.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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