When it comes to the holiday season, it can be difficult to navigate the twists and turns of child custody. Who gets the kids for Thanksgiving, and who gets the kids for Hannukah or Christmas? Parents want to spend valuable time with their children, and many parents are adamant about having their children over for Christmas morning — they want to be able to see the look first thing on their faces when they run to the tree and see all the gifts left for them there. Things get complicated when parents aren’t sharing the same household. Even worse is when a pandemic like COVID-19 has limited how much you’ve seen your children. In New Hampshire, what’s fair? Let’s take a look.

Santa Claus grabbing a cookie

What’s fair and what isn’t?

It’s important to remember that regardless of the holiday season, you have a legally binding agreement set by the court for custody, whether it’s shared or complete custody. While it’s tempting to want to ask that you “hog” your children for the entire holiday season, you should not be angry or upset with your ex-partner if you are denied due to the schedule set by the court. If you had the children the weekend before, it’s only fair that your ex-partner gets the children the weekend after. Still, many people understand and may be willing to go an extra mile to share the children for the festivities. Remind yourself that you are not entitled to this, and any agreement verbally made between you and your ex-partner for sharing the children during these special times is one that can not only be rescinded, but it’s a kindness extended from them.

What’s a good way to split up the holidays?

Many divorced parents choose to split up the holidays from year to year. Perhaps you have the children for Thanksgiving and New Year, whereas your ex-partner has them for Christmas, then the following year, you switch. Others may opt to have holiday celebrations twice — once on the actual holiday, and one the weekend before or after the holiday date. Some may take the children for a one-day celebration — maybe mom has them for Christmas Eve and dad has them for Christmas Day. Even better, sometimes partners can agree to take the children for half of the day. Perhaps Christmas lunch/dinner happens at mom’s house, whereas dessert happens at dad’s house. All of these arrangements are fair arrangements that can help you split the wonder and excitement of the holidays between your two houses. There are some more great ideas for splitting holidays and winter break available on CustodyXchange.

Considering COVID-19

Many children are in and out of school during this tumultuous time. It’s impossible to know if your children or ex-partner have been exposed to coronavirus during their regular daily activities, and it’s not likely to become clear to know if your children are asymptomatic carriers. This year, it is highly suggested that people who live together celebrate together, rather than mixing households. It is also suggested to opt out of visiting elderly or senior relatives in the chance that you or your children may be asymptomatic carriers. If you are immunocompromised or a high risk individual for hospitalization if you catch coronavirus, it may be a good idea to allow the parent with residential responsibility to celebrate with the kids this holiday season. Consider hosting a virtual holiday get together or check in with your kids and mailing your gifts instead. We know it hurts to not be able to visit your children for the holidays, but if it means risking your own life to do so, it’s worthwhile to heavily consider the alternatives.

We hope this helps you get a better idea and understanding of child custody and the holidays, especially if you are traversing this path for the first time. If you have other questions regarding child custody and modifying a custody order or arrangement, please contact Bernstein & Mello, PLLC.