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Managing holiday custody

For all of the joy and excitement that comes with the holiday season, there is a certain segment of the population in Texas that may look forward to this time of year with a certain degree of trepidation. This includes those divorced parents who have to deal with the potentially contentious issue of holiday custody.

The holidays are a time when people want to be with family. Of course, for families split between two households, this can be difficult. Divorced parents may never come to an agreement on their own as to a fair and equitable holiday custody schedule (as both likely want to have the kids as much as possible). Fortunately, state law takes the decision out of their hands and establishes a universal standard.

Holiday custody determined by custodial status

How that standard applies to an individual parent depends on that parent’s custodial status. Per Title 5 of the Texas Family Code, the court designates a parent as either a managing or possessory conservator. The managing conservator has the authority to determine the kids’ primary residence, whereas the possessory conservator receives limited custodial or visitation rights (other states may designate such a role as the non-custodial parent).

Even- and odd-year rotating holiday custody

Texas state law mandates that for every even-numbered year, a possessory conservator has custody of the kids from 6 pm on the day that local schools dismiss kids for the holiday break to noon on December 28. That custody schedule then rotates on odd-numbered years, with a possessory conservator having custody from noon on December 28 until 6 pm on the day prior to school resuming (with the managing conservator having custody on those offsetting periods each year).

Outside of the holidays, children’s birthdays also present the potential for custodial disputes. The law allows a possessory conservator time with a child from 6-8 pm on their birthday.