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Holidays, Vacations, and Special Events: tailoring your parenting plan to keep your family traditions intact after separation

Having a detailed parenting plan at the end of your custody proceeding or divorce matter is critical.  Once made a court order, your parenting plan governs all aspects of your co-parenting relationship and parenting time schedule going forward.  Parenting plans may be negotiated and agreed to by the parties, or, when agreement cannot be reached, they may be imposed by a court.

C.R.S. § 14-10-124(7) provides that parenting plans, at a minimum, “shall address parenting time and the allocation of decision-making responsibilities.”  The statute goes on to state that parenting plans may also address the following:

(a)  A designation of the type of decision-making awarded;

(b)  A practical schedule of parenting time for the child, including holidays and school vacations;

(c)  A procedure for the exchanges of the child for parenting time, including the location of the exchanges and the party or parties responsible for the child’s transportation;

(d)  A procedure for communicating with each other about the child, including methods for communicating and frequency of communication;

(e)  A procedure for communication between a parent and the child outside of that parent’s parenting time, including methods for communicating and frequency of communication; and

(f)  Any other orders in the best interests of the child.

Parenting plans range from being vague, leaving room for a lot of flexibility (and misinterpretation) to extremely detailed.  Generally, it is best to provide as much detail as possible to avoid future disputes. You and your co-parent may mutually decide to deviate from a parenting plan, from time to time, however, having a detailed parenting plan in place as a fallback is usually best.  Parenting plans provide guidance, stability and predictability, not only for the parties, but for children as well.

A few key components to parenting plans that often get overlooked are vacation, holiday and special events schedules, in addition to the regular parenting time schedule. Holiday schedules supersede vacation schedules, and both vacation and holiday parenting time supersedes the regular parenting time schedule. 

This portion of parenting plans tends to be unique in each family, as each has their own special traditions and preferences.  For example, what holidays are important to your family?  Are certain holidays more important to one parent than the other? What types of special traditions does your family have?  How often does your family travel and to where?  Where do the parents reside relative to each other?  Are your children school-aged?  Are there extended family or friends with whom it is important the children maintain relationships?

Many attorneys treat these schedules as a “one size fits all” and fail to take the time to really get to know their clients and the needs of their particular family when crafting these very important schedules and guidelines.  This often leads to conflict and dissatisfaction in the future.

At GEM Family Law, we truly want your family to succeed post-litigation with reduced conflict and overall satisfaction with the orders and agreements we have helped you obtain.  This is why, when creating parenting plans and proposals to the court, we spend the necessary time getting to know you and discussing your options and desires as far as what you (and your children) may need moving forward as relates to holidays, special events and vacations.  Our attorneys have extensive experience creating detailed parenting plans that are specifically tailored to your family’s needs. 

Authored by: Rebecca R. Baer, Esq.