Navigating Custody and the Holiday Season

Navigating Custody and the Holiday Season

Navigating Custody and the Holiday Season

As the holidays approach, it can be challenging to want to share custody of your children. Disagreements over custody around the holidays are common, even when parents are able to co-parent effectively for most of the year. This is especially true if one parent plans a special trip or other activities with the child during this time.

A child custody dispute during the holidays is unnecessary stress. It is highly recommended that you plan together and make arrangements for spending major holidays together. In it, arrangements for holiday shared parenting are laid out in detail. If you already have a parenting plan but think you and your ex-spouse might have a disagreement over Christmas co-parenting, it’s worth checking into whether or not it can be modified.


Consider Creating a Holiday Parenting Plan

Divorcing parents who have minor children might minimize potential tensions by including a holiday parenting plan in their overall parenting plan submission to the court. The parenting plan should detail how you and the other parent will divide up time with the child, including weekends and school vacations. Think about the following time-sharing ideas that can help the holidays run more smoothly when you build the holiday component of your parenting plan:


  • The child will split each holiday break in half between mom and dad;
  • Spend alternate years’ holidays with each parent; or
  • Recognize that some holidays may be more significant to one parent than the other (for example, you might be able to prevent tension by agreeing the child will always spend Thanksgiving with your ex-spouse, as Thanksgiving is a significant tradition for your ex and his/her extended family).


Flexibility during the holidays is generally preferable to rigid plans that are intended to punish an ex or prohibit the ex from spending time with the child, even though doing so may be emotionally taxing for everyone. Despite the fact that you may not look forward to spending Christmas alone or that you may not be able to take your child on a trip during every winter break as you have in the past, it is important to encourage and support your child in maintaining a healthy and continuing relationship with both parents.


Adjusting Holiday Visitation Schedules

You may be entitled to request a modification of the parenting plan if a disagreement between the parents arises as a result of an unforeseen circumstance over the holidays. In order to modify a parenting plan under Arizona law, a “substantial change in circumstances” must be shown. To determine if your scenario qualifies as a “substantial change in circumstances” and whether you are eligible to seek a modification of parenting time during the holidays, you should consult with a child custody attorney in Arizona.


Attorneys Specializing in Arizona Child Custody Cases

One of our experienced child custody attorneys can answer your questions and help you avoid a contentious holiday season as a result of a disagreement over visitation or other issues related to child custody. Serving Maricopa County, Pinal County, and all of Arizona, our legal team is committed to providing all of our clients with the highest quality of representation. To speak with one of our family lawyers or schedule a confidential consultation with an attorney, call602-548-3400, fill out the online contact form, or email your question to and we will respond quickly and discretely.