It can be difficult sharing the children’s time with your ex whether the two of you co-parent well or not so well.  The more strained the co-parenting relationship the more difficult it can be.  Everyone wants to spend the holidays with their children.  The hard truth though, is that after you and your ex separate most parents have to share the holidays.  What makes this reality easier for all involved, are parents that can co-parent with their ex, and having a solid holiday schedule.


One of the biggest issues of contention is who has the children when, and for how long.  Although some co-parents can work well together with a loose schedule, many cannot.  A schedule like “Mother to have children Christmas Eve and Father to have them Christmas Day” may lead to conflict come Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  This would be considered a loose schedule.  Possibly a better way to state it would be, “Mother to have the children Christmas Eve, December 24th at 9:00 a.m. until December 25th at 9:00 a.m. and Father shall have the children December 25th at 9:00 a.m. until December 26th at 9:00 a.m.”  The later gives a clear date and time of when each parent has the children.  This may eliminate an argument that would have occurred if you had a loose schedule.  It also eliminates the stress for the children of not knowing where they will be when and the stress that the children feel when their parents are in conflict.

Some co-parents don’t like having a strict schedule, however, if you have a tightly drafted holiday schedule and the both of you agree to change it for one of the holidays in a particular year that is okay; just remember, if there is a disagreement, the court order is the final say and that is the schedule you need to follow.


Carry on the traditions that you can and make new one along the way.  If you and your ex always gave the children new pajamas on Christmas Eve, it’s okay to keep doing that.  It is also okay if your ex continues doing that too.

Make new traditions as the years go on.  Maybe every year you and the children go watch a holiday play, or take them to see holiday lights and make an event out of it.

Children want your love and attention; they want you present with them.  They may need this even more so now that you and your ex are separated.


Everyone’s holiday schedule is different.  Some people like to share the day, some people rotate the holiday each year, and some people have a particular holiday every year.  Don’t be afraid to think outside the box when drafting a holiday schedule and don’t forget to think about the children in this process.  Be careful not to think so far outside the box that your suggestions are not considered, however, when you are brainstorming the holiday schedule you would like it may help you to come to a reasonable suggestion when you ponder multiple different options.   Sometimes parents get so focused on what they want that they forget to think about what the schedule would be like for the child.

What is common is for one parent to have a holiday in even years and the other parent has the children in the odd years.

For example: Mother shall have Christmas in even years beginning Christmas Eve at 6:00 p.m. until December 26th at 9:00 a.m.  Father shall have the children for Christmas in odd years beginning Christmas Eve at 6:00 p.m. until December 26th at 9:00 a.m.

Another thing to consider when looking at the holiday schedule is that there are times the children have time off from school around the holiday.  You may want to have a holiday schedule just for Thanksgiving Day or maybe a schedule like “Father to have Thanksgiving in even years and Mother in odd years.  Thanksgiving is defined as the release from school for Thanksgiving break until the return to school from Thanksgiving break.”

Some parents may equally share the Winter Break from school.  For example, “The parents shall share the Winter Break equally with Mother having the first half in even years and the second half in odd years, and Father having the second half in even years and the first half in odd years.”  This example is a little looser, although you know who has the first half and who has the second half, the exact dates are unknown as it will depend on each child’s schedule with their school and the parents will need to fine tune the schedule each year based on the child’s school schedule.

Another example is “Father to have the first half of Winter Break in odd years and Mother in even years.  Father to have the second half of Winter Break in even years and Mother in odd years.” The first half is defined as the release of school for Winter Break until December 26th at 9:00 a.m.  The second half is defined as December 26th at 9:00 a.m. until the return to school from Winter Break.”  This schedule has one parent having both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Depending on your child’s school, one parent might have more days during their time, however, it will be flopped the next year wherein the parent that had less time will now have more time.

Spring Break is another time during the year that children have some time off of school during the school year.  Most parents try to avoid a schedule that would give one parent Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter all in one year.

If you and your co-parent are able to work together to come to a schedule, be creative for what works for your children.  Maybe that is a traditional every other year schedule, or maybe the two of you have traditions that cause you to do something outside the box.  That is okay.  What is most important is that the two of you are working together keeping the children’s best interest in mind.

If you are proposing a holiday schedule to the court, be realistic.  Don’t expect that you get every Thanksgiving with the children.

However, maybe you and your co-parent practice two different religions and therefore one parent having a particular holiday every year works for your families.


Everyone’s holiday schedule is different.  Some co-parents have a very small holiday schedule list, where others include every holiday.  Some to consider are below.

New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Day


Spring Break

4th of July

Memorial Day Weekend



Christmas Eve

Christmas Day

Winter Break

Easter and Christmas holidays may not be holidays you celebrate due to your religion.  Think about your religion and the holidays you celebrate and add them to your holiday schedule if they are days you would like to have your children.

Children’s Birthdays

Parent’s Birthdays

This is not a complete list, there may be other three-day weekends that you would want to add, or maybe not.

Also think about the holidays that run late into the night like Halloween and 4th of July.  Maybe the parent that has that holiday has the children overnight?



For assistance with creating a holiday schedule, your custody case, or divorce contact Sara Thompson, a Roseville Divorce Lawyer.

Law Office of Sara S. Thompson, PC
1624 Santa Clara Drive, Suite 120
Roseville, CA 95661