What is the Standard Holiday Visitation Schedule in Minnesota?


The Christmas season is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. However, for divorced or separated parents, deciding custody schedules for the holidays can quickly dampen the Christmas spirit.

Between managing your own emotions, coordinating with your ex, and trying to make the season special for your kids, holiday co-parenting can feel anything but merry and bright.

If you’re struggling over who gets the kids for Christmas in Minnesota, you’re not alone. Many divorced parents fight over holiday custody. Everyone wants time with the children to celebrate family traditions, go to Christmas Eve services, open presents on Christmas morning, and more. The solution lies in compromising and creating a fair and balanced Christmas parenting time schedule.

How Does the Law Address Holiday Custody in Minnesota?

In Minnesota, the standard child custody agreement leaves room to specify a holiday parenting time schedule. According to the state’s Child-Focused Parenting Time Guide, holiday and vacation schedules take priority over regular parenting time.

The guide advises parents to first establish a regular weekly custody arrangement, then layer in holiday-specific schedules. Holidays, cultural celebrations, and children’s birthdays can be given special consideration.

Minnesota custody law allows the creation of alternating or rotating holiday schedules on odd or even years. For example, Parent A could have July 4th in even-numbered years and Parent B in odd-numbered years.

The holiday schedule can build in extra days – like having Thanksgiving all weekend instead of just Thursday. Parents can also designate certain holidays to one parent annually.
When building holiday schedules, parents should consider childcare availability, school vacation policies, and how transitions will work. Any regular call or video chat schedules should be kept the same.

By addressing vacations/holidays after setting a normal routine, Minnesota custody law aims to balance parent traditions and create new customs across two households. Clear communication between co-parents is key to making holiday visitation work smoothly.

3 Successful Ways to Share Christmas Custody

Rather than sticking to the strict parameters of the standard possession order, consider these effective strategies to give each parent quality Christmas time with the children every year:

1. Split Up Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

One popular way divorced parents share the holidays is by splitting up Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. For example, one parent may have the kids Christmas Eve morning through bedtime. Then, the other parent picks them up first thing Christmas morning and has them the rest of the day.

Some parents take it a step further and split up Christmas Eve dinner and present opening. One parent may have the children until 2 p.m. or so on Christmas Eve for dinner and gifts with one side of the family. The other parent takes over that evening for their own traditions.

2. Alternate Extended Christmas Breaks

Parents who live further apart sometimes prefer for one parent to have an extended Christmas break with the kids alternating each year.

For example, in even years, one parent may have the child beginning the evening the school break starts through December 28 at noon. In odd years, the other parent would have the same extended break.

This allows each parent to celebrate Christmas for several days and take the child on a trip or to extended family gatherings out of town during their respective years.

3. Divide the Time Evenly Each Year

Parents who want roughly equal time with their kids for Christmas each year can split the break in half. One option is for Parent A to have the child from after school until noon on December 25.

Parent B then picks up the child on Christmas Day at noon and keeps them until school resumes.

Another choice is for Parent A to have Christmas Eve and Parent B to have Christmas Day on the 26th of every year. As long as both parents get one evening for traditions and Christmas morning every other year, this compromise works well for many families.

Making Your Custom Christmas Custody Schedule Official

While parents may agree on their own Christmas parenting time schedule, it’s crucial to make it legally binding. By including your holiday custody arrangement in your formal parenting plan filed with the court, you avoid future conflicts.

Modifying a court-ordered parenting plan takes time and effort. When your holiday schedule is part of your official plan, neither parent can make unilateral changes. If disputes arise later, you have legal recourse to enforce the existing schedule.

Get Help Creating Your Christmas Custody Agreement

Drafting a fair, detailed Christmas parenting time schedule that both co-parents will honor requires compromise and forethought. An experienced Minnesota family law attorney can provide invaluable guidance in navigating this process.

At Martine Law, our Minneapolis child custody lawyers have helped countless families implement holiday custody arrangements. We understand this is an emotional issue and ensure both parents’ wishes are considered while protecting the best interests of the children.

Whether you need a lawyer to negotiate on your behalf, mediate disagreements, or formally modify your existing plan’s terms, we can assist.

Don’t let holiday conflicts ruin this season for your kids. Contact our experienced Minnesota family law firm today to discuss your Christmas custody concerns.

Author Bio

Xavier Martine

Xavier Martine is the Founder of Martine Law, a Minnesota criminal defense and family law firm. Serving clients in Minneapolis, MN, and surrounding areas, he is dedicated to representing clients in a wide range of criminal matters, including DWIs, drug charges, misdemeanors, domestic violence, and other criminal charges. He also represents clients in family law matters, including divorce, child support, and child custody.

Xavier received his Juris Doctor from the Mitchell Hamline School of Law and is a member of the Minnesota State Bar Association. He has received numerous accolades for his work, including being named among the “Top 10 Criminal Defense Attorneys Under 40 in Minnesota” in 2021 by The National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys. He was also named the “Best DUI Lawyer in Minneapolis” award in 2023 by Expertise.com and a “Rising Star” in 2023 by SuperLawyers.

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