The holidays are a time to be together so how do you navigate sharing your children with your ex-spouse? Today on Divorce at Altitude, we are discussing holiday parenting time. Parents often do not consider how holidays fit in with their regular parenting schedule and in this episode, we talk about the difference between the two, how you can deal with holiday time affecting the regular schedule, and why considering holidays is essential when going through a divorce.
We walk you through some factors to consider such as the age of the children, traveling, vacation parenting, and your children’s schedule before discussing how you can handle disputes in holiday parenting time and why a parenting coordinator decision-maker is very useful.
All families are different and therefore your particular circumstances must be taken into consideration when deciding on the level of detail required in your parenting agreements. We even tell you about an incredible online tool to help you plan your regular and holiday parenting time. Lastly, we remind you of the importance of putting your children first when it comes to holidays in order to make their time away from one of their parents as ‘normal’ and happy as possible. So to get some incredible tools for holiday parenting time, tune in now!
Key Points From This Episode:
What is Divorce at Altitude?
Ryan Kalamaya and
What is Divorce at Altitude?
Ryan Kalamaya and Amy Goscha provide tips and recommendations on issues related to divorce, separation, and co-parenting in Colorado. Ryan and Amy are the founding partners of an innovative and ambitious law firm, Kalamaya | Goscha, that pushes the boundaries to discover new frontiers in family law, personal injuries, and criminal defense in Colorado.
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DISCLAIMER: THE COMMENTARY AND OPINIONS ON THIS PODCAST IS FOR ENTERTAINMENT AND INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES AND NOT FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROVIDING LEGAL ADVICE. CONTACT AN ATTORNEY IN YOUR STATE OR AREA TO OBTAIN LEGAL ADVICE ON ANY OF THESE ISSUES.
Ryan Kalamaya (3s):
Hey everyone. I'm Ryan Kalamaya.
Amy Goscha (6s):
And I'm Amy Goscha.
Ryan Kalamaya (8s):
Welcome to the Divorce at Altitude A Podcast on Colorado Family Law.
Amy Goscha (13s):
Divorce is not easy. It really sucks. Trust me I. Know. Besides being an experienced divorce attorney, I'm also a Divorce client.
Ryan Kalamaya (20s):
Whether, you are someone considering divorce or a fellow family law attorney. Listen in for weekly tips and insight into topics related to Divorce co parenting and separation in Colorado. Welcome back to another episode of Divorce Altitude. I am Ryan Kalamaya. For Listeners that can't see me, I am wearing a flannel shirt, And I am joined by Amy who has a scarf on Amy. Any particular reason why I'm referencing what we're wearing for today's episode?
Amy Goscha (55s):
Oh, well, I know in Aspen the snow has been flying And. We just got our first snower in Denver, so we're gonna be talking about holiday Parenting time and how to really navigate that. So
Ryan Kalamaya (1m 6s):
Indeed we are so ho, ho, ho. If you're a fan of Christmas, we had previously done an episode 54 and episode on preparing for the school year in, you know, Divorce with Parenting and this episode's gonna be really focused on Holidays. And for those that don't know Amy, can you maybe kind of lay some groundwork about The difference between regular parenting time and holiday parenting time?
Amy Goscha (1m 33s):
Sure. So regular Parenting time is what is, you know, the regular Parenting schedule that you're following year round. So if you're on like a 50 50 schedule is you know that a week on week off, a five to two five, that's kind of the baseline as to what Parenting time is. But then during the holidays we have certain breaks per the school schedule where holiday Parenting time would take precedence over regular Parenting time So. That's what we're gonna be focusing on today.
Ryan Kalamaya (1m 59s):
Yeah, And we see in our practice there's a couple different ways that parents can handle Holidays. So you can alternate the holidays every other year, you can split the holiday in half, you can schedule a holiday twice and you can assign fixed Holidays. So there's different ways and really depends on your family circumstance, but any kind of tips Amy, I mean you have a Parenting plan in your case and for your son. So any tips as we walk into or jump into the holidays season that parents should consider whether they've been through Divorce or they're thinking about Divorce or they're going through Divorce and navigating or negotiating a Parenting plan right now?
Amy Goscha (2m 44s):
Yeah, so putting kind of more of my personal client hat on, you know when you're going through a Divorce and I'm past the Divorce, but you're really focused on what is the regular Parenting time going to be? And you kind of gloss over, even me as a family law attorney, the holiday Parenting time, but until you actually live that out the holiday Parenting time can create bumps in the schedule that can create long periods of time where one parent can have the children or child, you know, it does become important. So if you're going through an initial Divorce during the holidays pre decree, that is, you know, like really look at how that holiday schedule is going to affect the regular schedule.
Amy Goscha (3m 25s):
And what I mean is that after the holiday time you resume the regular schedule. So it's important to really map that out. You know And, we use custody exchange to really look a program to really look at how the holiday time can really affect like years down the road for instance. Two things that I've learned in my own situation are if you have, for instance, you define like Labor Day as a weekend and you're alternating the weekends, it can result in one parent having the child three weekends in a row. So it's just, you know, those types of things you really need attention to detail. It's very important.
Ryan Kalamaya (4m 0s):
And I think to put an exclamation point on that, Amy, I have been a big fan of sitting down with a calendar with clients and saying in theory every other week, alternating weeks makes sense and then splitting Christmas break or winter break for aged children, that abstractly makes sense. But when you combine those and you look at a calendar, it really can create some issues because if Eric Wolf has week one and then next week is the first half of winter break and then you play that out in theory, he could have three weeks in a row because the normal Parenting schedule and really the better example is Thanksgiving or Spring break because he could have in an odd numbered year the Thanksgiving break, which is a week.
Ryan Kalamaya (4m 54s):
And so if people don't look down and see the calendar and overlay that and as you reference we use Custody Exchange was a software program that allows clients to put the schedule and then add school Holidays. But I really encourage people and Amy right now we're getting a lot of calls from clients or prospective clients because you know they, they're reaching out but they all say what in terms of timing of when they wanna file,
Amy Goscha (5m 22s):
Well they wanna wait until after the holiday, right? So there's this gap right now
Ryan Kalamaya (5m 27s):
And right now because it's fall we have Thanksgiving and then Christmas and then New Year's, there's Hanukkah. So those sorts of things. Usually when people talk about the holidays, that's usually, I mean we have 'em right in a row. So I think in addition to looking at the school calendar and the actual schedule and overlaying it on the regular Parenting time, I think a couple things for people to go through. I mean one is if you are contemplating a Divorce, think about what it's going to be like. I mean it's not something that you want to really consider. I mean you're holding off these parents hold off until after the holidays but in their mind they kind of know that this is what's gonna to happen or at least one person does.
Ryan Kalamaya (6m 10s):
And I think it's kind of helpful to think about what it's gonna look like and that first year Amy I'm sure you can confirm is that first year after Divorce is finalized is really difficult when you go through the holiday season.
Amy Goscha (6m 23s):
Yeah it is. And even if you're like in the middle of a Divorce or just starting a Divorce, the way that you think about how the holiday would look, a lot of people come to me and I'm sure to you they're like well we just wanna share the holiday or we wanna split the holiday in half. And it's like you really need to look not just for where you're at then but how it's gonna actually play out moving forward. And it's hard to do that when you're in that situation, but you And I can help with that And, I think also the holidays, you want to get ahead of the holidays like you want to work that out so it's not stressful, you know for your children during the holiday season. And I think another point to think about is just the age of your children.
Amy Goscha (7m 3s):
We have, my personal example is actually like very pertinent because I have a preschooler. So a lot of the holiday schedules, even like mine say well you know, look at the school calendar that dictates well what happens when you don't have a school calendar because preschool courts are not gonna look at the preschool calendar. That's not gonna be until kindergarten. So it's important to really like pay attention to those details, you know, when you're like putting an agreement together on the holiday time. Yeah,
Ryan Kalamaya (7m 32s):
And I think parents, if they are getting along And, they wanna share the holiday, they can do that. You can always deviate from the Parenting plan if that's what works for your family and you at that particular point. But if you are arguing about it, it makes sense to have a detailed arrangement and that kind of raises how granular do you want to get the judicial form, which I'm not a big fan of. It has various Holidays and if we go through some of those, you know there's the biggies Christmas Mother's Day, Father's Day, but you know you've got Martin Luther King, Junior Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, Halloween Veteran's Day, I mean there's so many and you need to ask yourself how in detail do you want to get because it's kinda like the tax code when you create all these different exceptions, it gets really confusing and can result in unintended consequences.
Ryan Kalamaya (8m 31s):
So I think people really need to ask themself whether they want to deviate because there is something to be said for the simplicity of just letting the calendar or the holiday fall as it may. And if that especially is true, if you've got an alternating a week equal Parenting time arrangement, cuz in theory then it's all gonna shake out at the end of the day in terms of each parent's gonna have the holiday. But I think it is helpful for people to ask themselves, Mother's Day, okay every year mother is going to have Mother's Day but is it the whole weekend? Is it from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM And you know what happens if Melanie in Mother's Day that weekend if it's Eric's weekend?
Ryan Kalamaya (9m 15s):
And so they, you just have to ask yourself, you know, how in detail do I wanna get any other additional thoughts on the level of detail Amy?
Amy Goscha (9m 24s):
Yeah I think that it depends for sure on your case and if you get along great, you know like you should always have like a default schedule and thinking about it from the children's perspective, if their schedule's constantly changing because you've made like the holiday schedule so detailed where it just confuses even the regular Parenting time schedule. Like you don't want that either, you know, but don't assume that you're just gonna agree with the other parent because you know over time things change and you might agree in the beginning and you might not later on, I had an attorney one time where I put in the Parenting plan, you know mother has the children on mother's day, father has the children on Father's Day and defined it and the attorney freaked out and said well that's not an agreement.
Amy Goscha (10m 5s):
So just you know, make sure that it's clear but also look at your circumstances and make sure that you're not like over detailing it.
Ryan Kalamaya (10m 13s):
That said, I think it is helpful. So for example, Thanksgiving normally Amy you don't have, as you said you have a preschooler but you know my kids are in school and so for me Thanksgiving means that they have a whole week off of school and it's actually a more than a week because once they get on Friday, then the week before they have the whole week off. So I think it's helpful for parents to define is it the week off of school so does it start on Monday or is it just the day? You know most people if they want to travel, if they really want to think about it, they're looking at that Friday after school let's out before and that then transitions into the kids go back to school on the following Monday.
Ryan Kalamaya (10m 58s):
And I think it is helpful to have specifics related to that. And if you think about it, most people kind of come into it no matter if they have a disproportionate allocation of Parenting time on the regular schedule, most parents will equally divide the holidays. Now there's some exceptions on relocation where if there's a parent that lives out of state, they might get every spring break or they might get every Thanksgiving because that is an opportunity. But Amy, would you agree that most parents come into it even if they have a 60 40 or 70 30 every other weekend type arrangement that they're equally dividing Holidays?
Amy Goscha (11m 37s):
Yeah I think that's an assumption. Like I think it's a rare circumstance like parents living in two different states where it would not be an equal division of the holiday time. And, I think another, just as I think about this And we haven't mentioned it because this episode is on holiday Parenting time, but you also have to to look at vacation parenting time. So most Parenting plans will have a vacation schedule that might say each parent gets two weeks, you know in the summer well you have to look at some of the holidays that overlap in the summer like July 4th or a few, you know there are Parenting plans where it might be a school based home based schedule during the year and then in the summer you might have more of an equal Parenting time schedule. So if you have like vacation time and a parent could take it on one of the other parent's Parenting time, it could result in like one parent having three weeks in a row.
Amy Goscha (12m 24s):
So when you're looking at the holiday time, it, I think that's why it's so important to put on the calendar because you need to look at the regular time, how that plays out holiday time, how that plays out and then various scenarios on how you're defining the vacation parenting time as well.
Ryan Kalamaya (12m 38s):
I think parents need to ask themselves, I mean the summertime is a great example. And, I consider that to be within that same conversation of Holidays is that you're really looking at a deviation from the regular schedule and many parents will change the Parenting schedule for the summer because you know the children might be better off being with Melanie on Sunday night every Sunday night and because she can take the kids to school and Eric, he might be transferring, you know, back and forth between New York or Chicago for work. He might travel and that might disrupt his own schedule but those school gain the kids to school and sitting down with them to do homework that might be, you know, Melanie's jam and that may kind of result in having a different schedule week on, week off in the summer.
Ryan Kalamaya (13m 26s):
And those are the sorts of considerations. I mean up here in the mountains a lot of people in the service industry, so Christmas or winter break, that's when a lot of parents will work. And so we have this unique schedule where there's a fall break a whole week off in October and that is really unique to something in our mountain communities because parents are working during winter break so you have to sit down and think about what the other parent and and Amy, you And I have seen this with families. Some really put an emphasis on Christmas Eve, some on Christmas day. And so one thing that I've found helpful is you equally divide the winter break oftentimes and this is the most common scenario, but oftentimes winter break will have an odd number of days.
Ryan Kalamaya (14m 12s):
And so then you have this issue And, I've gotten calls you know the day before Christmas, hey Ryan, there's an disproportionate number of days or an unequal number of days, what do we do these tiebreakers where if for example there's an equal amount of days then the person with the first week gets the carryover day the extra day and then it's gonna shake out next year. So there's all of these different things that we have seen and Amy, you And I have gotten called where people don't understand it. And we go back into our template And, we tweak it and fix it and you know, really helpful for clients to see even though as you said, I don't think they're really thinking about, well next year for Christmas this issue could come up and we've seen so many different dispute and issues over holiday Parenting time,
Amy Goscha (15m 2s):
And, I think when you're also modifying your Parenting time make sure that you look at that vacation and holiday schedule because as the needs of your kids change, you know like I have a case where there's one kid is in elementary, one is in middle school and one is in high school and they're not in the same district like one's in private school so the schedules change, you know, so you have to think about well okay like I'm just looking at elementary school but like you have to consider all of those other schedules like possibly your kids might have different schedules and how does that impact holiday time?
Ryan Kalamaya (15m 34s):
Yeah. And so an example of that I think is helpful for provisions in a Parenting plan to consider one is the three day weekends. So the school Amy in your example the elementary school, they might have Martin Luther King junior day off from school but the private school may not. And so what do you do in that circumstance? And I find it to be helpful if there's, you know, generally there's alternation of weekends no matter kind of what Parenting plan, whether it's a 5 2 25 or 2 23 or even you know, alternating weekends and that's all that there is And they under kind of a 60 40 or 70 30 arrangement.
Ryan Kalamaya (16m 14s):
So really one thing I like is the three day weekends you don't explicitly outline them cuz then they can disrupt the normal Parenting schedule but the children have the day off of school and you could say two out of three kids or one out of three kids, whatever it is, parent that has 'em that weekend we'd carry over and have that extra Monday. Cuz typically that's when the holiday, whether it be Labor day, memorial day and you can just have an extra day and again that kinda shakes out usually over the course of a year when you have that kind of language.
Amy Goscha (16m 48s):
Yeah, And I would say over the years, I mean I used to be very detailed, you know just automatically in defining all of the holidays and over the years I've become, yeah more like follow the regular schedule if it falls on the Monday, then keep the children and that is child based because then they're not bouncing back and forth between houses.
Ryan Kalamaya (17m 6s):
But then another provision maybe that, you know what you were referencing earlier, Amy in terms of the children could be away from a parent for three straight weeks. So you can have just a simple provision that says it's not our intention to have the children for more than 14 days or fill in the blank number of days. And then there's a reset and you know there can be a flip language provision So that if there is gonna be spring break and that's gonna result in Eric having the children for you know, three straight weeks or weekends rather because you know the first weekend before the holiday and then the second weekend then Melanie would have the ability, hey I wanna flip with you So that I get the weekend before they leave or the weekend when they get back and that resets the schedule.
Ryan Kalamaya (17m 55s):
And so you can have those sorts of provisions that really address some of the unintended consequences cuz you know, unless they're looking at a calendar and seeing it and it can happen where it just pops up and people don't realize
Amy Goscha (18m 10s):
It. Right. And then one thing I was thinking about Ryan, what do you do in the circumstance of if people travel or not for the holiday? How do you address that issue?
Ryan Kalamaya (18m 19s):
So I like to have in winter break in particular because there can be language about that you'll split Christmas day or one parent will have Christmas Eve, but that assumes that both parents are in the same geographic location. So I often will put that if the parents are in the same geographic location that they'll, and it same thing could be happen for Thanksgiving, but the most common example is Christmas for those that celebrate Christmas and say if they're in the same geographic area, great. But just one of those things where it really depends on the facts and and the circumstances. The other thing too Amy that we see is, you know, summertime, I mean I have an eight year old daughter we're talking about you know, sleepaway camp at some point and that can, you know when parents have a historic agreement with each other in terms of sleepaway camp that can really eat into the summertime.
Ryan Kalamaya (19m 13s):
And so people really need to kind of think about that, especially when it comes to some sort of relocation where one parent typically in a relocation where you know, if Eric is living in New York City and Melanie is living in Boulder Colorado, then that summertime is really the opportunity for the non-school based parent to make up for time.
Amy Goscha (19m 37s):
Right, Yeah, exactly. And I think, you know, as attorneys really knowing the different Holidays, like for instance I defining you know Yom Kippur and various Holidays and understanding that putting like sun sundown to sundown and defining that is important. You know when you're dealing with those kind of Holidays.
Ryan Kalamaya (19m 56s):
Yeah, And I think that there's so many different school calendars and, and really people like you Amy I often tell people, hey it's, you don't necessarily have, if you have preschoolers then you don't necessarily have to have a whole week off of Thanksgiving. It's hard to take off of all this time for for the kids with your work schedule. But once you get there it really is something that you have to factor in because that school schedule really dictates. And so oftentimes we'll put in for the time being that will have Thanksgiving day and that's the holiday, but then once the child gets to school kindergarten, then there's this default Parenting schedule.
Ryan Kalamaya (20m 37s):
So, but Amy what happens if there is a dispute in terms of enforcement? What are some options for parents if they end up waiting? Which I think one of the key takeaways from this episode is what you said is don't wait and that's why we're releasing this episode is in part to encourage people to really look at their Parenting plan or to think about this and address it ahead of time. Don't call your Divorce lawyer at seven o'clock on Christmas Eve and say, we can't figure out who's going to have the children on Christmas day tomorrow because you know, we're not gonna be able to address that. So Amy, what are the options in terms of enforcement or resolving some of those disputes?
Amy Goscha (21m 20s):
Yeah, so you have to look first at the like alternative dispute resolution section of your Parenting plan. But some cases it would be really helpful to have like a Parenting coordinator or decision maker because trying to put something that like that in front of the court, it's just really hard. So in the best case scenario, how I see it working is like step one, talk to your co-parent and get on the same page with what the schedule is. Make sure that the calendar is clear. If you can't reach a resolution on that, then you know, if you have counsel, go to your counsel, try to work that out. If you can't do that, you know, like at least think about a provision that if you're just doing your Parenting plan or even modifying it, put in a provision for how to resolve that so it's not just having to go to the court, you know, so you can put a provision in your Parenting plan regarding decision maker, even arbitration, you know, just not leaving it to the court cuz you just don't know when you're gonna get a, you know, an answer on that.
Ryan Kalamaya (22m 14s):
I think it goes back to episode 54 in terms of our school planning. Once the school calendar is out, it it is, I don't think anyone would regret, you know, sitting down or at least emailing the other parent And, I say seeing down in terms of figure speech. But really emailing the other client and and having that calendar And, they can use a program like Custody Exchange to say hey, this is what it looks like, do you agree? And if, and obviously there can be changes, but if you do that in the summer or early fall it, it really can address some of those issues. But you know, if there is some sort of dispute then you know, people have a motion for contempt because if there's a violation, if one parent just unilaterally decides then you know, certainly could file a motion for contempt but you can also file a motion for enforcement.
Ryan Kalamaya (23m 4s):
And we've had other Episodes related to that. You know, we had Georgina Melby talk about a motion for contempt in that process and then Halleh Omidi in terms of a motion for enforcement and some of those other mechanisms. But the judge does not like, I can tell, you know, everyone out there with the high degree of confidence, the judges don't like dealing with these sorts of disputes. But really it's one of those things you gotta think about the kids and that that really is something that people need to be mindful of because the holidays, there's a reason there's a holiday, it's, it's an opportunity for people to be together and to celebrate, you know, and it's going to be a different circumstance, you know, mom or dad is not, you know, necessarily going to be there, but it's about kind of celebrating love and if you or the other parent is aggravated because there's been a dispute on holiday, the really the kids, you know, lose out on that.
Amy Goscha (24m 1s):
Yeah. And I know that, you know, it's hard for parents going through Divorce not to be with their kid on, you know, like important Holidays. But I was in mediation recently with a family law attorney who has been practicing 40 years and she was divorced and she said, you know, she would just have an, she said, you can celebrate Thanksgiving on any day that you want. It might not be the same but you can still make it special, you know. And so I think as a parent the takeaway is it really is about your children but you can still do other things and do other traditions even if it's not on the actual holiday. You know, cuz it is hard to go through it as a parent when you don't have your child on the holiday.
Ryan Kalamaya (24m 40s):
Well, and the final point, I recently talked to a client about travel because Holidays do result in travel. And so having specific language in the Parenting plan about how, you know, for example, if there's a level three or level four with the US State Department, Amy, I'm sure you're not traveling to Iraq over the holidays, but if there's a dispute on the safety and the where they're going, but providing itinerary or different travel info, but also having that notarized signature when you're traveling as a single parent, often these airlines will ask for confirmation from the other parent that's not traveling to make sure that there's no abduction.
Ryan Kalamaya (25m 24s):
And usually that's for international travel, it's not with domestic travel, but I mean when you get kids that are sick, you know, and they're supposed to be with the other parent, those sorts of issues can really cause some time sensitive. So I love the idea of a PC dm, a Parenting coordinator decision maker to really be able to address some of those issues. I, I once had a holiday Parenting dispute and the Parenting coordinator immediately issued a decision as a decision maker because there was a dispute over traveling to Mexico. So those are the time sensitive issues that are really apt for a PC dm. And if people want more info, I think you know, a couple Episodes that episode 32, which is how to episode on holiday Parenting time Amy you did in the interview with Joe Nick Williams in episode 27 on Parenting plans.
Ryan Kalamaya (26m 17s):
And then finally there's episode 22 on the final settlement documents so people can really kind of understand a Parenting plan. Like what exactly is this? If you don't know, go back and and look at it. But anything else before we go back to hanging the lights and preparing for the upcoming Holidays Amy?
Amy Goscha (26m 36s):
I think if you're just listening to this episode, figure out your holiday Parenting time.
Ryan Kalamaya (26m 41s):
Well, until next time, thanks for joining us on Divorce at Altitude. Happy Holidays. We hope that this has been helpful for all those out there thinking about holiday Parenting time Hey, everyone, this is Ryan again. Thank you for joining us on Divorce at Altitude. If you found our tips, insight, or discussion helpful, please tell a friend about this podcast. For show notes, additional resources or links mentioned on today's episode, visit Divorce at Altitude dot com. Follow us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen in. Many of our Episodes are also posted on YouTube. You can also find Amy and me at Kalamaya.law or 970-315-2365.
Ryan Kalamaya (27m 25s):
That's K A L A M A Y A.law