The holiday season is a time to revel in good food with good friends, delight in the little ones’ excitement over gifts and bond with family as you deck the halls or light the menorah. But if you have shared custody of your children, the holidays might not feel cheerful so much as one long headache you can’t wait to get over.

Hey, there Scrooge – I understand how shuffling the kids back-and-forth, spending the festive season alone and possibly exchanging some not-so-merry words with your ex can make you a bit grumpy. But before you shout, “Bah, Humbug,” there are some simple options to make shared custody a cinch during Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and every celebration all year round.

Switch It Up

When it comes to ensuring quality time with your child over the holidays, don’t play things by ear. It might seem easy to verbally agree your child will spend Christmas Eve with you… but then your ex’s parents pop into town and really want to watch him open his gifts from Santa. Planning ahead is the best way to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Rather than wait until a few weeks before the holidays to start making shared custody decisions, create a plan in which you and your ex alternate holidays every other year. Remembering that you get the even years for Thanksgiving and the odd ones for Christmas, for example, makes this an easy calendar to keep up with and keeps things conflict-free.

Go Halfsy

If you don’t want to go without seeing your child over the holidays, dividing the days in half is a possible solution. This way, no one misses out on memorable moments, and your child gets to spend equal time with mom and dad.

Just remember that what’s most important in any custody decision is your child’s welfare. Splitting the days in half requires some extra- careful planning so your child isn’t spending most of the day being hauled back and forth.

Pick And Choose

Not a huge fan of Thanksgiving but your ex cooks up a turducken for his entire family and all his neighbors? Do you adore all the little rituals of Christmas but your ex would prefer to spend the chilly holidays vacationing in a warmer locale?

Not every person is gung-ho about every holiday, so it may be that there are some you hold dear and others you’d be willing to give over to your ex-spouse. Keep in mind, though, that priorities could change over time and you and your ex may find yourselves back to battling it out about which holidays you each want.

Of course, it may be simpler – and make more sense – to let one parent have Thanksgiving Day and the other to have the day after and make a similar arrangement for other multiple-day holidays. If you decide to create a schedule, don’t forget to include all the one-day festivities and school closings throughout the year.

As always, it’s best to seek the advice of an experienced family attorney when drafting a schedule or other agreement. Because no celebration or holiday memory is as lasting as your child’s wellbeing.

Need help creating a custody schedule? Contact The Lea/Schultz Law Firm at (910) 239-5990 to request an initial consultation, or visit

Jim Lea has been practicing law for nearly four decades. In 1996, he received an “A preeminent” rating from Martindale Hubbell, an honor earned by only 10 percent of the country’s lawyers. Since then, he has been named a “Super Lawyer,” honored as one of “The Best Lawyers In America” and “preeminent lawyer,” all for over 10 years. He was recently inducted into “Lawyers of Distinction,” limited to the nation’s top 10 percent of lawyers. His firm has been named by U.S. News and World Report as one of the nation’s top law firms for more than five years.