7 Ways to Split Holiday Child Custody Schedules That Work

Uncontested Divorce Mediation

Posted December 28, 2022

When two people separate, the holidays are a difficult time for both. But when there are children in the mix, the matter of custody and family time can complicate matters. Both parents want special time with the children during the holidays, and often it feels like this could be an all-or-nothing fight. Ultimately, however, what matters most is that quality parental time is protected and that your child’s experience is the top priority.

This is true for more than just small children. Grade-schoolers and even teens need to feel like their family is stable, and that their lives are not about to crumble beneath them because of the divorce. A fair and fun holiday custody schedule can really make a difference in helping your children to feel stable and loved during this time. Agreeing on a fair schedule can also take a lot of the stress and strife out of your Denver divorce mediation process.

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At Split Simple, we have helped thousands of separating spouses build a supportive shared holiday schedule that is both fair to both parents and creates enjoyable stability for their children. Let’s look at some of the child custody schedules that can work for different family structures.  

Split Holiday Custody Schedules

Split holiday child custody occurs when parents take turns spending time with the kids over the holiday season, and split specific days and times to make this possible. There are many different ways to split the holidays depending on your time, families, and schedules.

The Thanksgiving/Christmas Split

There are two major feast holidays in the American holiday season: Thanksgiving and Christmas. For families that are big on feast days, you can split these two so that one spouse gets Thanksgiving (and the long weekend) and the other spouse gets Christmas. This split is often favored when both of the parent’s families want to spend time with the children, especially if  your pre-divorce tradition also included seeing one family for Thanksgiving and another for Christmas. The Thanksgiving split can also work well if the Thanksgiving spouse is very busy and may not have enough of Christmas break available.

Christmas and New Year’s

For a different type of family, splitting Christmas and New Year’s might feel more appropriate – especially with older kids and teens who can be more involved in the New Year’s eve late night celebrations. If one parent wants to plan a great New Year’s adventure with the kids, this can be a great way to make sharing Christmas easier. Especially if the family traditionally meets with the other spouse’s family, and this is where the children will want to be on Christmas Day.

Taking New Year’s is an opportunity to build new traditions that are fun for the family without disrupting old traditions that the children may rely on for stability.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

For parents who both want to spend the specialness of Christmas Day with their children, consider a Christmas Eve / Christmas Day split. The first parent takes the children out on Christmas Eve adventures (or stays home to have a movies and pajamas party) and drops the children off late that evening. This may include a Christmas Eve ceremony if you are religious, a family-friendly holiday party, or even ice skating and last-minute shopping at the mall for the adventurous.

The parent who gets Christmas Day can then run the traditional stockings and presents celebration with the whole family. This split works well if one spouse has limited time, does not want to involve their own family of origin, or is the “Adventure parent” as a matter of tradition. Or the parents will swap Eve and Day each year, based on the family’s preferences.

Splitting the Two-Week Holiday

Children often get about two weeks off from school for the winter holiday. This provides the opportunity for a Week-On, Week-Off type of split where one parent takes the first week and the other takes the second week – often cut in the middle at the Eve/Day line. This arrangement is often the best option for parents who live far apart, so that children may need to travel in order to spend time with both parents over the holidays.

A unique variation of this option is where the kids stay in the house and parents take turns visiting them, which is an evolution of a unique custody alternative to selling or taking the house to maintain children’s home and stability.

Your Family, My Family Split Alternate Years

Of course, alternating years is a well-known option that can work out well for everyone. If both parents’ families want to see the grandchildren and have a welcoming holiday tradition, parents can take turns taking the kids to each family holiday celebration. In fact you don’t even need a great family of origin to make this happen. If you want to alternate holiday breaks with your ex, you can build new and fun holiday traditions during the on-years with your kids, and a separate set of fun personal traditions when you have the holidays to yourself.


Another option is the double-holiday. This is when children celebrate first with one family, and then with the next. They may have Christmas a day or two before or after the calendar date. Many families actually already celebrate on an off-day in order to accomodate a holiday work schedule, travel delays, or other limitations. A double-holiday can allow both halves of the family to have a complete holiday with the children and to achieve some scheduling flexibility as a result.

Your Tradition, My Tradition on Different Days

One important variation of the split holiday is to give each parent the days that relate to their personal traditions. For example, Hannukah happens over eight days, offset from Christmas, and the Winter Solstice does not always fall on the same day, either. Depending on your traditions, splitting the holidays may be easier than you realize by splitting the calendar along traditional celebration lines. The children can enjoy sets of traditions and get the benefit of a double-holiday.

What to Set In Stone in the Divorce Agreement

The final question is what to put in your Denver divorce mediation agreement. The terms of your divorce and custody agreement will define what is set in stone and can be enforced by a court if necessary. We often advise with custody agreements to define fair time and outline guidelines, but not to get too specific. This is because jobs, schedules, and the preferences of your children can change over time.

With Split Simple, one of our talented Denver divorce mediators can help you build a practical, fair, and flexible child custody agreement and holiday schedule that works for everyone. Contact Split Simple today to learn more.

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