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What to Do When Your Holiday Visitation Schedule Isn’t Working?

by | Jul 10, 2022

The holidays are a time when family and friends get together to celebrate. Unfortunately, some families are separated by divorce. It can make holiday visits challenging to schedule and even more difficult to stick to. 

If you are having trouble with your holiday visitation schedule, here are some tips to help you make it work.

How is the holiday visitation schedule typically set up?

Holiday schedules are usually set during the divorce negotiations or soon after the divorce is final. The program should consider the work schedules of both parents, any out-of-state family that needs to be considered, and the children’s school schedules. If both parents celebrate different holidays, the schedule should also take that into account.

In some divorce cases, the parents won’t pre-schedule the holidays.

What can cause conflicts with the holiday visitation schedule?

Many things can cause conflicts with the holiday visitation schedule.


Since many people have weekends off work, most holiday visitation schedules will start on Friday evening and end on Sunday evening. This situation can become problematic for parents who live far away from each other or have to travel for work. 

Let’s say the child is supposed to spend Thanksgiving with the father in New York, but the mother lives in California. The child would have to travel cross-country, which can be expensive and time-consuming.

If driving is the only available transportation method, it can be a 14-hour trip one-way. That’s a lot of time for a child to be in the car if they’re young. And, if the traffic is bad, it could take even longer. You can see how quickly this can cut into your three-day weekend, especially if the child has school on Monday.

New families

In the event that one spouse remarries or starts dating someone new, that can add a whole new layer of complexity to the holiday visitation schedule. The new spouse or partner may want to spend the holidays with their own family or may have work obligations that conflict with the schedule. If the new spouse has children from a previous relationship, that can complicate things.

The step-parent or partner may not want to spend the holidays with the child if they don’t have a good relationship.

Child’s interest

Even if the schedule is fair and reasonable, the child may not want to follow it. The child may want to spend more holidays with one parent than the other. Or, the child might not want to travel back and forth between homes. If the child is old enough, they can refuse to go on the holiday visitation.

It’s important to talk to your child about the schedule and why it’s best to follow it. If the child is resistant, try to find out the reason why. It may be something that can be worked out or accommodated.

What should you do if the holiday visitation schedule isn’t working?

If you’re having trouble with the holiday visitation schedule, there are some things you can do to try to work it out.

1. Talk to your ex-spouse

If you’re having trouble with the holiday visitation schedule, the first thing you should do is talk to your ex-partner. Depending on your relationship with the ex, you might want to try approaching them in person, over the phone, or through email or text. If you can come up with an agreement on the spot, great. If not, you can at least try to develop a plan that will work better for both of you.

If you’re not on good terms with your ex, it might be best to communicate through a family lawyer or mediator. There’s less chance of the conversation devolving into an argument. Remember that they’re the parent of your child also, so you’ll need to be respectful even if you disagree with them.

Ideally, you should have an new holiday plan that you can implement if the schedule isn’t working. It should be ready to be presented when you speak with your ex. This way, you’re not scrambling to come up with something on the spot.

Some alternate plans might include:

  • Trading holidays – If you have the child for Thanksgiving, your ex can have the child for Christmas. Then, you can switch the following year.
  • Taking turns traveling – You can also travel to your ex’s house for the holidays one year. The next year, they can come to your house.
  • Alternating years – You can have the child every other year for each holiday.
  • Making up holidays – If you miss a holiday because of the schedule, you can make it up by taking the child for an extra weekend or on a special day, like their birthday.

2. Use a mediator to renegotiate custodial terms

If you can’t agree with your ex, you might want to consider using a mediator. A mediator is a neutral third party who can help you and your ex communicate and come to an agreement. If you use a mediator, choose someone who’s experienced in dealing with custody cases.

You can always try to renegotiate the terms of your custody agreement, which can be done with or without a mediator. If you can come up with a new deal, you’ll need to have it approved by a judge.

3. Lawyer up and go to court

If all else fails, you can take your ex to court. Divorce court should be a last resort, as it’s usually expensive and time-consuming. It can also be stressful for everyone involved, including the child. If you go to court, the judge will look at the child’s best interests when making a decision. They’ll consider the child’s age, the distance between the homes, each parent’s work schedule, and the holiday in question.

If you’re looking for a Wisconsin divorce lawyer that excels in family law, look no further than Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C. Our team of divorce lawyers has the experience and knowledge necessary to help you with your case. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

Written by Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C.

Family Law

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