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Addressing holidays in your custody order

The holiday season is coming up and for co-parents this time of year can be especially stressful. If you are in the process of negotiating a custody order it is important to know how to address holidays.

Like many states, Arizona courts make custody decisions based on what is in the best interest of a child. This involves examining several factors, with one of them being making sure each parent has frequent and continuing contact with the child.

The goal is to achieve an equitable, or fair, division of parenting time. This includes holiday time.

Common holiday schedules

A holiday schedule takes priority over your regular custody schedule. An equitable custody schedule typically splits the major holidays, such as Christmas, into two different custody periods for each parent. The periods alternate each year.

For example, parents usually want to be with their children on Christmas morning. An equitable custody schedule would allow each parent to have the early part of the day on Christmas every other year, with the other parent having the later half of the day.

Other holidays follow the same concept, with the time being split and/or alternating years. Mothers are usually given custody on Mother’s Day and Fathers on Father’s Day.

Do we have to follow this schedule?

However, your holiday schedule should also reflect your specific situation. Every family is different and has different ideas and preferences when it comes to holidays.

Perhaps your family never celebrates Thanksgiving but your co-parent’s family has a large Thanksgiving gathering. You may consider letting your co-parent have custody every Thanksgiving to allow your children to spend time with their extended family.

The holidays can be stressful and confusing for children who are not used to spending them with both parents. Children should have regular contact with both parents during the holidays, no matter which parent they are with.

Put the children first

Remember that your main goal should be making sure your children have positive holiday experiences that turn into happy memories when they are older. Keeping this in mind will increase your chance of resolving any parenting time disputes involving the holidays.