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Specialty tag(s): Child Custody, Parenting Schedules

Understanding the Holiday Custody Schedule Under the Texas Standard Possession Order

Chandler Rice Winslow | December 15, 2023

The holiday season is a time for family gatherings, treasured traditions, and creating lifelong memories with your child. But 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 your child custody holiday schedule. Fortunately, there are ways to create a road map for yourself and your co-parent that ensure that your child can have a joyful holiday season.

Here are a few of the most frequent questions we receive from clients about the Standard Possession Order in Texas for 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 Thanksgiving custody schedule outlined in the Standard Possession Order, if you are 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 child for Thanksgiving break during even-numbered years. The winter break or Christmas custody schedule is different, however. Standard holiday possession in Texas divides winter break (often referred to as Christmas break) in half.

Non-Custodial Parent Christmas Custody Schedule

  • Even-Numbered Years: The non-custodial parent has possession of their child from the day school is dismissed for winter break until Dec. 28.
  • Odd-Numbered Years: The non-custodial parent has possession from Dec. 28 until the day before school resumes after winter break.

Custodial Parent Winter Holiday Schedule

  • Odd-Numbered Years: The custodial parent has possession of their child from the day school is dismissed for winter break until Dec. 28.
  • Even-Numbered Years: The custodial parent has possession from Dec. 28 until the day before school resumes after winter break.

Are There Other Ways to Share Holidays as Co-Parents?

Yes. The Standard Possession Order schedule may not be the best fit for all families. Luckily, the courts in Texas encourage parents to work together to reach agreements concerning custody on holidays. This means that parents can agree to create a custom holiday schedule for custody that best suits their families’ needs and/or traditions.

Here are some ideas for alternative ways to divide the winter break and Thanksgiving in your holiday custody schedule:

  • Rotate who has your child for the specific day of the holiday every year. For example, a Thanksgiving custody schedule could mean one parent has possession of the child from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving in odd-numbered years and the other parent has possession of the child from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving in even-numbered years.
  • Divide winter break based on the number of holiday days each parent gets. For example, you can create a child custody holiday schedule where 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, while adhering to the regular parenting schedule otherwise.
  • Alternate weeks during winter break.
  • Follow a weekly schedule during winter break. For example, the holiday custody schedule could dictate that one parent has the child Monday and Tuesday, the other parent has the child Wednesday and Thursday, and you rotate weekends.

While the Texas Standard Possession Order holiday schedule provides a parenting schedule for Thanksgiving break, Christmas break, spring break, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day, many families celebrate additional holidays, such as Passover, Easter, or the Fourth of July, which should also be discussed and considered when devising your child custody holiday schedule in Texas.

If you decide to use a custom holiday custody schedule, be sure your road map 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 scheduled custody begins and ends.

How Can I Avoid Holiday Headaches for My Children?

While following a new divorce holiday schedule may take some adjustment, here 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 that your mother and your co-parent have a strained relationship, do not bring your mother with you when you are picking up your child.
  • Coordinate presents. This will help ensure that there are no duplicate gifts or gifts that cause behavioral issues for the other parent.
  • Discuss happy transitions. For example, if you know that your child will be very tired after an activity at your house, let your co-parent know so that they can plan for 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 that your divorce will have a negative impact on the holiday season for your child. This does not have to be true. Your child can have many magical holiday memories as long as you focus on putting your child first. Here 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 schedule a holiday movie marathon filled with popcorn and games. New traditions mean new memories, which will help your child focus less on the changes caused by the 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 with other friends and loved ones while your child is with your co-parent to beat the holiday slump.
  • Normalize the new routine. Start talking to your child about how a holiday schedule for divorced parents works 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.

Learn More and Get Help With Your Holiday Custody Schedule

A partner with GBA and child-centered family lawyer, Chandler Rice Winslow is known for solving highly contested custody issues. Chandler is knowledgeable about the unique circumstances involved with parents with special-needs children, including ADHD, autism, and learning difficulties. She has represented clients in all aspects of cases involving Child Protective Services (CPS) and has served children as a guardian ad litem and attorney ad litem. Chandler also was named to D Magazine‘s Best Lawyers Under 40 in 2022.

If you would like more information about child custody, the Standard Possession Order in Texas, or how to create a road map for successful co-parenting during the holidays, please contact Chandler at (214) 247-7114.

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