Trick-or-Treating Safety Tips for Divorced Parents

Elise Buie, Esq.
7 min readOct 29, 2023


Halloween is one of the most exciting and anticipated holidays of the year for children and their families. At the top of the list of concerns is how to manage children’s safety. Next up: how to handle logistics so that everyone — Mom and Dad included — can be a part of the festivities, making it a fun and relaxing day for all instead of one filled with frights and fights.

If you’re a divorced parent who’s concerned about how to manage Halloween with an ex, I’ve spent countless Halloweens doing just that; my husband and I blended our families and have six kids between us, my four and his two. We all survived and have many fun memories to show for it. These are my tips.

1. Coordinate plans with your ex in advance.

You may remember that scene (spoiler coming) in “Marriage Story” when Adam Driver’s character, Charlie, had his parenting time at the end of the evening — after their son had already gone trick-or-treating with his mom and was overtired and cranky. To get in his fair share of the holiday experience, Charlie took his son out trick-or-treating anyway. It was a miserable experience for both of them and not something I’d ever wish on any divorced parent or their child.

The goal should be to avoid a situation like the one above, and coordinating plans — realistic plans for the children’s ages — can make all the difference in the world. But it may mean looking at the situation with a critical eye for what would be in your children’s best interests, not necessarily your own (at least in the short term), and being open to compromise.

A word to the wise when coordinating with an ex: keep the past in the past. Focus instead on making this Halloween a better experience for everyone if it was lacking before.

2. Consider alternating years.

Splitting the day in “Marriage Story” was unrealistic due to the child’s young age and punctuates the need for a discussion beforehand as to who will trick-or-treat with your children, where, and during what specific timeframe. Communicating plans with your co-parent, including what costumes your children are thinking of wearing in advance and preferably in writing, can help you avoid misunderstandings or disagreements.

So, too, will agreeing to alternate years with your ex, setting up a date other than Halloween to celebrate with your kids. If your ex is open to it, you could arrange to see your kids in their costumes on Halloween but then let your ex do the trick-or-treating that particular year and you the next. Hosting a Halloween party for the children and their friends is also a fun way for you as the off-year parent to celebrate or your ex if it’s their year.

3. Keep your ex informed of plans.

Whether you decide to split the day or alternate years, when your children are with you, let your ex know your plans or your children’s plans if they’re old enough to go trick-or-treating with friends without you. Share the name of the neighborhood where your children will be or the route they’ll be taking, and keep your ex apprised of your children’s whereabouts through the afternoon and evening.

Ask for that information from your ex. Neither of you should have to worry unnecessarily about what’s happening. Worry aside, let your children’s other parent take some pleasure in knowing the children are enjoying themselves, even in their absence. Again, hopefully, your ex will do the same for you.

4. Create a family-wide system for checking in.

Whatever plans you make on your children’s behalf, let them know what those plans are and be sure they understand them. Once they do, regardless of who your children are with on Halloween or if they’re out with friends, create a family-wide system for checking in. Your children should check in with you if you’re not with them, at which point you should check in with your ex, communicating your children’s whereabouts as you learn them.

Alternatively, if you’re with your children, communicate from time to time with your ex so they know how everything’s going. Texting photos can be a fun way to keep your ex involved. Again, hopefully, your ex will do the same for you. Depending on your relationship with your ex, you may even want to suggest it to them.

5. Be flexible.

Yes, it’s a lot of planning. And no, Halloween won’t always go as planned. Which is why it’s so important to be flexible. The goal is that your children (and their parents!) have a fun Halloween, so be prepared to go with the flow. You’re dealing with kids, after all, and they can have a mind of their own.

6. Establish one set of rules.

Though plans can change, your children should know the rules and be expected to follow them, as well as be apprised of potential safety issues. Establish the rules with your ex first so everyone’s on the same page. The rules should vary according to children’s ages but can address concerns such as coming home by a specific time, not crossing busy streets, and how many treats children can eat and when. Both parents should communicate to children that these are the rules, regardless of who they’re with.

That said, don’t just dictate the rules. Encourage your children to ask questions and contact either of you during the evening should they need to for any reason. Also, be open to your children’s preferences and suggestions about Halloween. They may have some good ideas you haven’t thought of.

7. Familiarize yourself and your children with community rules.

Many towns have rules for Halloween and the night before, known as Mischief Night. You and your ex should ensure you’re up to date on all policies and procedures and communicate them to your children.

Also, if your children will be attending a community event, such as a Halloween parade, continue checking town websites for information and updates. Though there can be safety in numbers, remember to go over with your children safety practices for large gatherings, such as not talking to strangers or leaving with anyone they weren’t aware would be picking them up. Consider establishing a safe word with your children.

8. Be respectful of time.

There should be rules that apply to you and your spouse as well. First and foremost, those rules should include respecting each other’s time. If you say you will bring your children home or drop them off by a particular time, do it.

Also, determine with your ex how long trick-or-treating should last or what time curfew will be for older children. Doing so will help you to avoid potential conflict.

9. Consider spending Halloween with your ex.

Worried about not getting somewhere on time? What if you didn’t have to because you and your ex are with your children on Halloween at the same time, celebrating together? Just because you’re divorced or getting divorced doesn’t mean you still can do stuff together. You can.

If you and your ex can both promise one another to remain amicable, at least while in front of the kids, everyone can benefit. You and your ex will be able to share in more special moments with your children, and you’ll model for your children what a healthy relationship looks like, marital status aside.

10. Make sure your kids know how to reach you and your ex in an emergency.

If you won’t be with your children on Halloween, whether they’re with their other parent or their friends, make sure they know how to get in contact with both of you. If you’re worried your younger children won’t remember their address(es) or your phone number(s) should they somehow get separated, consider writing that information on a piece of paper for them to carry. Because pieces of paper can still get lost, do your best to have your children commit these details to memory.

A last word …

Your children’s safety on Halloween should always remain a priority, regardless of the relationship you share with your ex. So should your children’s feelings, as a Halloween following divorce can be as emotionally fraught for them as it is for you.

Beyond that, divorce can mark the beginning of new Halloween traditions. Traditions you, your children, and your ex each can have a hand in carving out, making Halloween as a divorced parent not so scary after all.

Elise Buie is a Seattle divorce and family lawyer and founder of ​Elise Buie Family Law Group​, a law firm devoted to divorce and family law and estate planning​. A survivor of Hurricane Katrina, her own divorce, and many dish-filled sinks piled high after lively family dinners with her husband, Doug, and their blended family of six (six!) 20-somethings, Elise knows firsthand what it means to juggle work and parenting, finding balance in between, even if it means a lot of late nights. When she’s not advocating for her clients, the best interests of their children, and civility in divorce, you can find her sailing on Puget Sound.



Elise Buie, Esq.

Elise Buie is a Seattle-based family and divorce lawyer and founder of the ​Elise Buie Family Law Group​.