The Holiday season is a time for family gatherings, treasured traditions, and bonding with your children. If you are recently divorced, parenting a blended family, or parenting with a co-parent, you may experience added stress and headaches when trying to effectively manage the holiday season.  There are ways to create a roadmap for yourself and your co-parent that ensure your child has a joyful holiday season.

Below are a few of the most frequent questions I have received from my clients about Standard Possession Orders in Texas and co-parenting during the holidays.

How do divorced parents share holidays in Texas?

There are many ways you can share parenting time during the holiday season. In Texas, the Standard Possession Order includes specific language regarding holiday possession.

Pursuant to the Standard Possession Order, if you are the parent who is considered the “non-custodial parent,” you will have possession of your child for Thanksgiving break in odd-numbered years. If you are the custodial parent, you will have possession of your children for Thanksgiving break during even-numbered years.

The Standard Possession Order divides Winter Break (often referred to as Christmas Break) in half. Below is the possession schedule for the “non-custodial parent” and the “custodial parent.”

Non-custodial Parent: Has possession of their child from the day school is dismissed for the Winter Break until December 28 in even-numbered years. And for odd-numbered years, has possession from December 28 until the day before school resumes after the Winter Break.

Custodial Parent: Has possession of their child from the day school is dismissed for the Winter Break until December 28 in odd-numbered years. And for even-numbered years, has possession from December 28 until the day before school resumes after the Winter Break.

Are there other ways to share holidays as co-parents?

The Standard Possession Order schedule is not the best fit for some families.  Parents can agree to create a custom holiday schedule.  Below are alternative ways to divide the Winter Break and Thanksgiving:

  • Rotate years for who has your child for the specific day of the holiday. For example, one parent has possession of the child 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving in odd-numbered years, and the other parent has possession of the child 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving in even-numbered years;
  • Divide Winter break by the number of “holiday” days each parent gets. For example, one parent gets the child for the first four days of Hanukkah in even years, and the other parent gets the first four days of Hanukkah in odd years;
  • Follow a week on week off schedule during the Winter Break; or
  • Follow a weekly schedule during the Winter Break.  For example, one parent has the child Monday and Tuesday, the other parent has the child Wednesday and Thursday, and you rotate weekends for the Winter break.

If you include a custom Holiday schedule, be sure your roadmap is clear.  Your possession schedule must include clear pick-up and drop off times and locations.  You should also be sure that it is clear when your Holiday schedule begins and ends.

How can I avoid holiday headaches for my children?

The Holiday season may be stressful the first few years after your divorce.  Below are a few ways to avoid holiday headaches for your child:

  • Review your parenting plan in November of each year. Remind yourself when you will have your child, as well as when and where you will be picking up your child;
  • Discuss the holiday schedule with your co-parent in advance. Offer to compromise on scheduling changes when possible.
  • Exclude “triggering” family members from possession exchanges.  For example, if you know your mother and co-parent have a strained relationship, do not bring her with you when you are picking up the children.
  • Coordinate gifts and presents.  This will help ensure there are no duplicate gifts or gifts that cause behavioral issues for the other parent.
  • Discuss happy transitions.  For example, if you know your child will be very tired after an activity at your house, let your co-parent know so that they may plan bedtime at their house accordingly.

How can I make the holidays better for my children when I am divorced?

Like many parents, you may be worried your divorce will have a negative impact on the holiday season for your child. This is entirely not true. Your child can have many magical holiday memories so long as you focus on putting your child first. Below are some ways to help improve the holiday seasons for your child:

  • Plan a new unique tradition. Start a yearly gingerbread house decorating contest or a Hallmark Movie marathon filled with popcorn and games.  New traditions mean new memories, which will help your child focus less on the changes from divorce.
  • Plan events for yourself for when you are not with your child.  Your child can feel your stress and anxiety. Plan activities for yourself while your child is away, so you have less time thinking  that they are not with you.
  • Normalize New.  Start talking to your child about the new holiday schedule as soon as possible.  Tell your child that you are so excited for them to spend time with their other parent.  Help them begin to feel that their new schedule is as “normal” as what the holidays used to look like.

In summary, you can create a joyful holiday season for your children —and minimize stress on yourself. This can be achieve by focusing on what is in your children’s best interests and having the right amount of planning and communication with your co-parent. If you would like more information about Child Custody, Standard Possession Orders in Texas, or want to learn how to create a road map for successful co-parenting during the holidays, please contact Caroline Galloway or a GoransonBain Ausley lawyer here.

Caroline Galloway

“My role is to help clients define their goals, maintain focus, and emerge equipped to start a healthy new life. I believe children’s stability is a priority, and I help clients learn how to be new co-parents and resolve issues together.” — Caroline Galloway