Santa’s Watching: 10 Tips to Avoid a Holiday Custody Fight

Santa is pretty predictable. Each year, he comes on December 24th to the delight of children all over the world. As predictable as holiday visitation squabbles. Forgive me for not publishing this sooner, but speaking from years of practicing family law I’ve got some suggestions to make child custody issues easier the next holiday that rolls around.

  1. Look at your Custody or Visitation Court Order.

    If you have a Court Order, whether it is a temporary Order pending your final Divorce, or whether it is a final decree, look at it. I know, it sounds elementary. But people seem to forget that the Court Order is what governs their visitation. You have to look at the schedule and determine which part of the Holiday season is your visitation or custody schedule. My suggestion is to do this well in advance of December.

  2. Plan Your Holiday Visits or Custody

    Once you look at your Order then you have a starting place from which to plan. If you have any doubt whatsoever about the agreement of your ex or soon to be ex, then talk to them – again, in advance. You are going to be so angry if you have made plans and they tell you Christmas Eve that they didn’t know it was your year to have custody Christmas morning and they are sailing off on a Disney Cruise.

  3. Communicate Your Holiday Schedule – with Everyone

    If both parties are clear on the schedule then be sure to tell the other parties who may be involved about the time constraints. This includes grandparents and new families, etc. Everyone celebrates at a different time and the sooner they know the sooner accommodations can be made so that your child or children won’t miss out.

  4. Give Yourself Plenty of Time for Travel

    If you are going out of town, consider the other parent who may be waiting to begin their Holiday with the child you share custody of. Think about how you would feel if they were two hours late. Don’t do it. It’s a great way to start a holiday visitation disagreement. Be on time and consider how the other party will feel. Remember, the kids can sense the tension, and this kind of thing can be really hard on them. You want them to enjoy Christmas without worrying about their parents squabbles.

  5. Warn Someone if You’re Going to be Late to Avoid a Holiday Custody Fight

    If being on time is impossible, then communicate as soon as you find out in the way that you know will get to the parent the most effectively. Accidents do happen, and traffic can be horrific on holidays. Be considerate and save yourself from creating any child custody issues.

  6. No Comparing Holidays

    Do not make comparisons about Christmas at the other parent’s house or or with their family. It puts the children in the middle. If you don’t feel the other parent has given enough then don’t say anything to the child. Please don’t. Or if you think the parent gives too much, don’t say anything in front of the child.

  7. Cooperate with Each Other – You Share Custody

    Be open to working with the other parent to accommodate what works best for everyone. Being unyielding to them often means they are likely to return the favor.

  8. Holiday Visitation is Not Time to Get the Gossip

    Don’t use time with your child to interrogate them about what happens at the other parent’s house. Again, this puts the child in the middle.

  9. The Kids’ Toys are the Kids’ Toys, Not Your Custody Battle Weapons

    Let the children carry their new toys to the other parent’s house if they want to, unless you know there is a good reason they shouldn’t (and I can’t possibly know every circumstance).

  10. Put the Child First. Their Happiness is the Goal, not Winning the Holiday Visitation Disagreement

    Remember, always do what is in the child’s best interests and put aside your differences. It is the season to be jolly after all.

If you still can’t agree about child custody or are having issues with visitation rights and have to go to your family law attorney with violations of the Order (child custody agreement or visitation rights), then be as specific as you can be with times, dates, and what happened.

Questions about Holiday Custody in Alabama?

Learn about changing your child visitation agreement in Alabama. If you think you need a child custody attorney, contact us at Leigh Daniel, Attorney at Law today.


A respected Huntsville family law attorney with more than 20 years’ experience, Leigh Daniel is known for her positive attitude and her skills in the courtroom. She prides herself in the care and compassion that she and her team put into every case. Her goal is to instill a sense of confidence in her clients so they know success is on the horizon. As an author, inspirational speaker, coach, and founder of Project Positive Change, Leigh stays focused on the positive impact she can make on every client’s case.