Like a good Parenting Plan, a clear and detailed Holiday Schedule is critical to separate parenting success.

Separate parents need to know what to expect from each other. Think of your Holiday Schedule as a safety net that will provide the soft landing (or solution) to a holiday dispute. As parents, you do not need permission to alter the holiday schedule – if you are able to reach an agreement move forward with your plan. Disputes about holidays often arise when one parent makes a special request about a holiday and an agreement cannot be reached. Lacking a detailed holiday schedule, parents who are having a disagreement about Thanksgiving have nowhere to turn for a solution because the courts are closed and their lawyers are with their own families. A detailed Holiday Schedule provides the solution – it is the back-up plan – it’s what you agree to follow when you cannot agree otherwise. A detailed Holiday Schedule should include the following:

  1. List of important holidays which will be shared between the parents.
  2. Annual assignment to each parent – for example, Dad in even-numbered years; Mom in odd-numbered years.
  3. A specific timeframe – for example, 10 am to 8 pm.
  4. A plan for transportation between the parents – for example, the off-duty parent (parent without the children) picks the children up from the on-duty parent’s residence or other location (such as school).



Odd-numbered Years

Even-Numbered Years


After school on WED through THU at 8 pm



Other helpful hints:

  • Consider whether or not a holiday will be one day (just the holiday) or a combination (weekend). A combination of days allows an extended holiday and ability to travel; it also causes more of a disruption to the weekly schedule –resulting in one parent having three weekends in a row.
  • As your children age, certain holidays (Halloween) become less important and may actually evolve into “regular” parenting days.
  • Parents of teens may consider simply making a statement that the children will be allowed to make their own decision about how to spend time with each parent on any given holiday. This effectively means that the regular parenting time schedule is in effect and holidays follow the regular schedule. This option is most commonly considered for children 16 and older.
  • The more recent your divorce/break-up, the more important it is to follow the Holiday Schedule as agreed. Special requests or failure to honor the schedule cause conflict and erode parenting trust. As time goes by, parenting trust will grow as a result of following the schedule and special requests will be much more easily granted.

Written by: Amber M. Serwat, MA

Amber is a divorce and parenting specialist in private practice in Burnsville, MN. She is also a divorced parent and step-parent of three children, ages 16-12. | 952.252.1492