We’ve talked a lot about holiday scheduling for divorcing and divorced parents over the years, and with good reason. If you follow standard orders under the Texas Family Code, you know that you’ll get your kids for half the Thanksgivings and half the Christmas Eves and Christmas Days going forward — and it can be a huge shock for divorced parents upon experiencing the first holiday without their kids. We even wrote an article last year on alternatives to what’s in the Texas Family Code, allowing each parent to get time with children during the Christmas Eve/Christmas Day mega-holiday.
But what if you’re Jewish? What does the Texas Family Code say about that?
As it turns out, Christmas is covered in the Texas Family Code — alongside holidays like Thanksgiving, New Year’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day — but Hanukkah isn’t. In fact, Christmas is the only religious holiday addressed, which means if you’re Jewish and you want to address Hanukkah or other Jewish holidays in your decree, you have to do it yourself.
The good news, of course, is that if you’re negotiating your divorce decree with your soon-to-be-ex — with the assistance of family lawyers, of course — you can write language into your decree that will cover Hanukkah. If both you and your ex are Jewish and celebrate the holiday, you can make an arrangement similar to what parents have for the Christmas break, splitting the time into two four-day blocks and apportioning them that way.
Sometimes, there’s overlap between the holidays — for instance, Hanukkah in 2022 runs from Dec. 18 to Dec. 26 — so you’ll want to make sure that you’re clear on what wins out if only one parent celebrates Hanukkah and the other celebrates Christmas. And, of course, if one parent wants children for Hanukkah, you’ll want to build something into the schedule to create “make-up” time for the other parent.
As Hanukkah sometimes runs during a time of year when school is in session, some parents might not want to disrupt school schedules with extended overnight stays during weekdays – especially if your regular parenting time schedule draws from the Texas Family Code, where kids typically spend Monday through Wednesday nights with the same parent during school years.
An article on the topic from a law firm with offices in Austin, Dallas and Plano suggested this arrangement for Hanukkah:
- Even-Numbered Years – MOTHER shall have possession of the children in even-numbered years beginning at 4:00 p.m. on the day Hanukkah begins and ending at 8:00 p.m. on the following day. FATHER shall have possession of the children in even-numbered years beginning at 4:00 p.m. on the fourth night of Hanukkah and ending at 8:00 p.m. on the following day.
- Odd-Numbered Years – FATHER shall have possession of the children in odd-numbered years beginning at 4:00 p.m. on the day Hanukkah begins and ending at 8:00 p.m. on the following day. MOTHER shall have possession of the children in odd-numbered years beginning at 4:00 p.m. on the fourth night of Hanukkah and ending at 8:00 p.m. on the following day.
If you’re interested in more than Hanukkah, that article covers a number of Jewish holidays with suggested language to place into your decree.
But no matter how you celebrate or how many holidays you want to provide parenting time guardrails for in your decree, there are a few important things to keep in mind.
As we hinted at above, negotiating your decree makes it easier to get what you want when it comes to holidays. If you’re litigating your divorce and Hannukah’s important to you, your lawyer can advocate for you to get it as you wish … but there aren’t any guarantees the judge hearing your case will grant it, even if your lawyer has tailored language that can be inserted into the decree. Some judges will want to deviate as little as possible from standard decrees; it’s up to your lawyer to make the case for you in court that the special language is in the children’s best interest.
Also, what’s in the decree is a fallback in case you and your ex can’t agree on a different arrangement that might work best for you. If you’re supposed to have your kids for four nights of Hanukkah and family members are coming for the fifth night, you can certainly reach out to your ex about changing parenting time from what the decree says.
You want to make sure, of course, that you get it in writing — email is fine — just in case there’s any dispute later. But if occasionally changing up what’s in the decree works better for you — or, more importantly, your kids — you have the ability to do that. The more you and your ex can be on the same page about that, the less conflict you’ll experience.