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'Tis the season to deck the halls, drink some eggnog and, if you are a separated parent, angrily call your family lawyer and demand that you get the kids for Christmas this year.

Christmas break (for those who celebrate the holiday) can be a contentious time for separated parents sharing custody of children, especially young children. Every parent wants to "be santa" for his or her child and share in the excitement and joy on Christmas morning. However unless you and your ex can sit down together in your pajamas on the couch on Christmas morning while the children tear open presents, you are simply going to have to rotate this holiday.

There is no preferred access schedule that separated parents follow when it comes to Christmas. Largely the schedule depends on where the parents live, what their traditions are (if any) at Christmas and what is in the best interest of the children.

A popular arrangement is for one parent to have the children Christmas Eve and morning while the other parent has the children Christmas Day from mid-morning or noon onward and then overnight and into Boxing Day. This way one parent can have the children for the excitement of Christmas Eve and morning, while the other can have the children at his or her extended family dinner.

Not everyone participates in traditional Christmas activities and some parents are willing allow the other parent to celebrate all of Christmas every year with the children so long as they may spend some other annual holiday with the children.

Some parents might live in different cities or countries which makes sharing Christmas day with both parents impossible. In these cases the Children might spend one week of holidays with one parent and the next with the other, splitting the break so that one parent spends Christmas with the children and the other, New Years.

Whatever arrangement you and your ex (or a court in some cases) decide upon, please remember that your energy during the holiday season should not be focused on your right to enjoy Christmas with your children. Instead it is important to be civil and cooperative with your ex and to work together to ensure that your children have a great winter break from school. This is the best way to ensure that when your children are grown, they will only have memories of peaceful, enjoyable winter holidays with both of their parents.

This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2021 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

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