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Making a Custody Schedule for the Holidays

Posted on October 1, 2022

The holidays are a joyous season and one that children especially look forward to. But when parents divorce and split custody, the holidays can become a contentious time of year with hard feelings and loneliness for the parent who doesn’t have the kids on an important day of the year. By carefully negotiating a holiday custody plan that’s mutually acceptable to both parents, divorced parents can minimize their own dissatisfaction during the holiday season and keep it fun and stress-free for the kids.

Whether you’re contemplating a divorce, in the mediation process, or considering modifying the schedule as children transition from young children to teens, it helps to know the options available for holiday custody schedules in New York.

Odd/Even Year Holiday Schedules

In New York, the courts prefer a fairly divided holiday schedule for shared custody. A common way to ensure this is an odd/even alternating schedule. Unless parents agree to different terms during mediation, an odd/even holiday schedule divides the holidays fairly based on whether the year ends in an even or odd number. Then the courts divide the holidays into Group A and Group B so that neither parent has to spend every holiday without their children for an entire year. By separating the holidays into two groups, the arrangement usually divides major holidays fairly. For example, if Group A includes Christmas day (or Hanukkah), Group B would include Easter(or Passover). Then, by alternating odd/even years, the schedule switches each year so the parent who didn’t have the children on a major holiday one year would have them on that holiday the next year.

Fixed Holiday Schedules

Some parents are able to agree to a fixed holiday schedule rather than an alternating one. This option works well for parents of different faiths. For example, if one parent is Christian and the other Jewish, it’s easy to split the holidays according to faith since they don’t fall on the same days. In other cases, one parent may especially love Easter, while the other is really into Halloween. In this case, they can settle on a fixed holiday schedule that satisfies them both.

Split-Day Holidays

For parents who live close together or in the same town, some choose a split-day holiday schedule. In this type of schedule, one parent has the children from the night before through the morning of each holiday, while the other has them for the afternoon and night of the holiday.

If parents live too far apart, split-day holiday schedules don’t typically work well, as a child would spend too much of the holiday traveling, but this arrangement works for a custodial parent with the non-custodial parent living nearby since both parents enjoy time with their children on every major holiday.


For some parents, the answer to missing a child during the holiday is to schedule their own day to celebrate, regardless of the official schedule. For example, if it’s a parent’s off-year for Christmas, they can simply celebrate the holiday early or late, depending on when they have custody. This arrangement is a favorite for children since it means they get to enjoy celebrating twice.

Remember to coordinate present-buying with the other parent to avoid purchasing the same gifts.

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