If you’re a divorced parent in Texas, it’s likely that noon on Dec. 28 is a date and time that has special significance to you. Per the Texas Family Code, that’s when handoff of a child occurs from one parent to another, as a transition point (though never quite a halfway point) in the child’s Christmas break. Every year, it alternates between who hands off to whom, but it’s always a situation in which one parent who didn’t get to celebrate Christmas with their child gets to “make up for lost time” starting on the 28th.
As it turns out, it doesn’t have to be that way.
There are a number of alternate plans for handling Christmas exchanges. While they’re not plans that judges will naturally gravitate toward in litigated cases, they’re certainly something you can negotiate or that your lawyer can advocate for on your behalf.
This guide from a mediation-based firm in the Phoenix area has six different ideas and breaks down the pros and cons of all of them. If you want a deep dive, it’s a good read, but if you just want a sampling, stick with us for a couple of minutes and we’ll give you a brief tour.
The first idea suggested is a split allowing one parent Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, with the other getting the chance to celebrate for the remainder of Christmas. It reads:
Christmas Eve shall be defined as December 24 at 11 a.m. overnight to December 25 at 11 a.m. Christmas Day shall be defined as from December 25 at 11 a.m., overnight until December 26 at 11 a.m. Father shall have the Children in all odd numbered years, and Mother shall have the Children in all even years.
It’s simple, and 11 am is a good time for a handoff in that it doesn’t require anyone to wake up too early — though you know how early some kids get up on Christmas morning! For the parent who has the children Christmas morning, it allows for the traditional present opening, and for the parent who gets them at 11, it provides for a nice continuation of Christmas, rather than punting a “Second Christmas” to the 28th.
They also provide this possibility:
The mother shall have the Child on Christmas Day in odd numbered years, and the father shall have the Child in even years. However, the parent who does not have the children on Christmas morning is invited to share present opening together from 8 am until the 11 am exchange time on Christmas Day.
For some families remade by divorce, this can be a wonderful way for parents and children to come together and share in Christmas cheer. This will obviously only work for certain families, though — if parents don’t get along, if one parent has taken the kids to family that lives some distance from the other parent, or even if one parent is “not a morning person,” this might not be a viable solution. But if the parents can come together and the logistics work, this can be a great way to involve both parents in their kids’ joy.
There’s also a suggestion that leans toward what parents in Texas are accustomed to doing with summer: Settling on a parenting time schedule several months prior in order to be flexible with whatever the children might have planned. Specifically, it suggests:
The mother and father shall confer on October 1, each year, and mutually agree upon the details Christmas Eve and Christmas Day parenting time schedule. Parents shall share the holiday equally unless otherwise mutually agreed.
For parents that are able to communicate and coordinate well, this can be a good system allowing for flexibility — and if one parent decides to travel with the children for those special days, it opens the door to negotiating compensation time for the other parent. Of course, it relies on parents coming together annually — and it might require some sort of backstop default plan should parents be unable to come to an agreement one year.
If you’ve already settled your divorce with a standard Texas Family Code holiday arrangement, and one of these plans is appealing, you have the option to modify. It’s better, of course, to mutually arrive at this change with your ex — but if you’re interested in pursuing this or any other modifications to your decree, the Law Office of Lisa A. Vance can meet with you to discuss your options. Because, while many families settle for and make do with what’s in the Texas Family Code, you have the option to craft a decree that works best for you and your children — and we can help make that a reality.