Child Custody Issues on Halloween

Halloween can be such a fun time – kids in all sorts of crazy and creative costumes, so excited to go out and parade their looks and get candy! Parents enjoy seeing their children happy and want to share in the fun. But for parents who are no longer together, Halloween can be a real nightmare.

Halloween should be a day of excitement and sugar crashes, cute costumes, and one of the few innocent child moments we carve out in our tech-heavy society. Many parents look forward to this holiday and spend weeks preparing – for proof just look around your neighborhood and see how many neighbors have decorated their yards and homes or even built a haunted house.

For children whose parents do not live together and operate under a court-ordered custody schedule, Halloween can prove a source of frustration for everyone, most unfortunately the child.

How can parents make sure Halloween works for everyone?

It is common for Halloween to be one of the holidays on the list of holidays that are alternated in A and B years on a Parenting Plan, which means one parent could get left out every other year. That means missing far too many Halloweens given how quickly kids will outgrow that age. So, one move parents can make is to share Halloween, in one of at least five ways.  First, if both parents want to be a part of the costume fun, parents can plan to make or buy the costume in shifts and parts. If both parents want a party atmosphere, both can have the child help make decorations and host parties on Halloween that the child attends. Few children will refuse a chance to go to two parties!

Second, parents can agree that the child will go trick-or-treating with both parents on Halloween, with each parent agreeing to a shift. With younger children, this works particularly well – one parent has a small meal, gets the costume ready, and takes the first run of houses, after which the other parent either comes to the same neighborhood or takes a run near his or her house, after which the parent and child get to divide up candy and enjoy.  

Third, the parents can share the evening by having 45 minutes of trick-or-treating with one parent at that parent’s house and 45 minutes of trick-or-treating with the other parent at the other parent’s house. 

Fourth, the parents can agree to have Halloween divided into two different days. Every year, schools and a variety of organizations like churches and scouts have “trunk or treat” parties a week before Halloween. Parents can alternate between the “trunk or treat” and actual Halloween, all in order to maximize both parents participating in some Halloween fun.  Where the parents simply cannot communicate or work together, even in this alternating on the same day fashion, parents can still share in Halloween by taking advantage of “trunk or treats” that happen the week or so before Halloween, where schools or religious groups host safe trick or treating in parking lots. One parent gets actual Halloween, the other the trunk or treat, and that way each gets to experience some of Halloween with the child. Parents can also plan decoration activities or pumpkin carving to add to the experience.

Fifth, Halloween is a process, so making sure each parent has a part in the process helps the children too. For example, each parent could have alternating roles – one year one could help pick out or make the costume, while the other parent plans a party or an outing to Pumpkin Land or Boo at the Zoo. Each parent could go candy shopping and pumpkin carving with the children. The more parts available, the more the children feel each parent is happily participating, and the less likely the child will feel any guilt or sadness.

The goal for Halloween should be putting the children first and ensuring their fun, and having them not feel guilty they cannot take part with both parents. To do that, parents need to put their own feelings aside, which can be challenging in some relationships. But remember – the children will feel hurt if both parents cannot take part, and it will ruin Halloween for everyone. So, find some way to share the joy of Halloween together.

If for some reason none of these possibilities work for you, at least be sure to share photographs of all the fun with the other parent, and if you end up being the left-out parent, do not let your child see you sad or feeling lonely – be cheerful and happy for the child.

If parents stay focused on the point of the holiday – for kids to have fun and parents to facilitate the fun – all can enjoy. It may take some creativity, but it does not mean a parent needs to be shut out for the day.

Should you need the assistance of an experienced divorce and child custody attorney in Creve Coeur and O’Fallon or have questions about your divorce situation, know that we are here to help and ready to discuss those questions with you.


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