The holidays are always a special time of the year, but they can also be tough on divorced or separated families. In a divorce or parentage proceeding, it is important to establish both a regular and holiday parenting time schedule. Here in Illinois, the holiday parenting time schedule typically takes precedence over the regular parenting time schedule. This means that if a holiday occurs during what is normally your regular parenting time day, whoever that holiday is assigned to per your holiday parenting time agreement will be the party that spends time with the children on that day. While holidays differ based on each parent’s culture, religion, and traditions, you’ll want to sort these holidays out when establishing your parenting time schedule: 


  • New Year’s Eve and Day
  • President’s Day
  • Martin Luther King Day
  • Good Friday
  • Easter
  • Mother’s Day 
  • Memorial Day 
  • Father’s Day
  • July 4th
  • Labor Day 
  • Halloween 
  • Thanksgiving 
  • Christmas Eve 
  • Christmas Day (or other holidays such as Hanukkah, Eid, etc…)


If a good holiday parenting schedule is in place, both parents still can enjoy holiday fun and make lasting memories with their children. There are many options for divorced and separated families to equitably split up any important and celebrated holidays in an amicable way.  

Alternate Major and Religious Holidays 

When planning a holiday parenting time schedule, it is not uncommon for parties to alternate major holidays, such as any religious or nationally celebrated holidays like Thanksgiving. For example, if in even years one parent has the children for Thanksgiving and the other has the children for Christmas, then in odd years the parents will “swap” the two holidays. A parenting time schedule that alternates major holidays like this assures that both parents can spend time with their children and extended family together during these meaningful times. 

Sharing Holidays 

If alternating holidays does not work for you, consider equally splitting holidays that you cannot part with. For instance, the children can spend time on Christmas morning at one parent’s residence and then go over to the other parent’s later in the day. If equally sharing holidays is something you are considering, be sure to factor in the distance between each parent’s residence. While this type of holiday sharing is a great option for parents that live near each other, if parents live a considerable distance from each other, this might not be feasible or in the best interest of your children.

Parents’ Birthdays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day

A good rule of thumb for splitting parents’ birthdays is that each parent should be allowed to celebrate their own birthday with the children every year. Similarly, it is typical that Mom gets to spend Mother’s Day with the children each year and Dad gets to spend Father’s day with them each year. If you are in a same-sex marriage, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day may be holidays that you alternate or divide as previously discussed.

Give and Take

If you and your former partner value certain holidays differently, you may be able to use this when negotiating your parenting plan. For example, if it is tradition for you to spend every July 4th at a big barbeque with your family and your former partner does not have any traditions for this holiday, consider proposing a holiday parenting time schedule that awards you July 4th every year in exchange for your former partner being awarded a different yearly holiday that they find more significant. Similarly, if your family typically gets together on Christmas Eve and your former partner’s family typically gets together on Christmas Day, it might work out best for everyone if you get Christmas Eve each year and your former partner has Christmas Day each year. If everyone can get on board with a trade like this, everyone wins. 


Remember, there is no right or wrong way to plan your holiday parenting time schedule as long as the best interests of your children are always at heart. Your attorney can help customize a holiday schedule that works for both your and your children’s unique interests and traditions. 

For help or consultation on developing a holiday parenting plan, contact our offices and schedule an appointment with one of our qualified attorneys today!