How to Get More Time with Your Kids Over the Holidays

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Many divorced people dread the holidays because separation and custody agreements often have the kids scheduled to spend the holidays with just one parent. That can leave the kid-less mom or dad feeling lonely and wishing for more time with their children during this special time of year.

However, there are ways to negotiate more time with your kids if you’re divorced. The key is communication and — if that fails — a willingness and ability to go back to court.


Offer to ‘Help’ Your Ex

The first thing you can try is to simply ask your ex-spouse for more time with the children, says Bari Weinberger with the Weinberger Law Group in Parsippany, N.J.

“You may be surprised how willing your ex is to accommodate your request for more time, especially if you are polite, respectful and can convey that it is in the children’s best interest for this change to take place,” she explains. 

You can also frame your request in terms of helping your ex out: “Offer to babysit the children,” Weinberger suggests. “Your offer could be especially welcome during the holidays, as it is likely that your ex has parties to attend and shopping to do. Plus, you’ll be saving your ex money on the costs of a babysitter. 

Look at this as a chance to create new holiday traditions – a good idea for alleviating stress or sadness for you and your kids during a time of year that might bring up some difficult emotions.


Outside of the Arrangement Can Be OK

But what if your requests fall outside of your custody arrangement? As long as you are on good terms, you don’t have to go back to court. “The parties are always free to mutually agree to a modification to the previously agreed upon terms,” Weinberger points out.

“This type of situation can be more formally fixed as a right of first refusal so that if one parent is unavailable or has a conflict and can’t watch the kids, the other parent has a right to step in and enjoy more time, even though it wasn’t anticipated or scheduled.”


Not on Good Terms?

Bari Weinberger

But what if you and your ex are not on good terms, and asking for more time during the holidays with your kids just won’t work?

“If your ex is not open to accommodating any of your requests and you feel that a change in parenting time is necessary, you can always elect to file a motion for modification of child custody or visitation,” Weinberger says. The judge who originally heard your case has continuing jurisdiction to make changes..

When you present the reason you want the extra time – say, for a family celebration – “the court will generally look to see if it in the best interest of the child,” she explains. “Certainly a family celebration would be something positive for a child; that isn’t to say it is a guarantee, but it has a strong likelihood of success.”


Next Holiday? It’s Right Around the Corner 

Finally, think ahead. If you know this will be an issue every year, you might consider creating a “fixed holiday plan,” says Weinberger, which can kick in only during the holidays.

“A plan can be created to accommodate an alternative holiday schedule as well as take into consideration family obligations on the part of both parents,” she says.

If you didn’t set it up as part of the final settlement or custody trial, and you want to modify your existing agreement, you can either mutually consent to the change, or again, go back to court.

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