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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 that works for you and your family at the end of your custody proceeding or divorce matter is critical and in the best interests of your children.  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.

Minn. Stat. § 518.1705, subd. 2(a) provides that parenting plans, at a minimum, “must include” the following:

(1) a schedule of the time each parent spends with the child;

(2) a designation of decision-making responsibilities regarding the child; and

(3) a method of dispute resolution.

“A parenting plan may include other issues and matters the parents agree to regarding the child.”  § 518.1705, subd. 2(b).

As allowed by the above-cited statute, parenting plans range from being quite 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 practice.  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 supersede the regular parenting time schedule. 

This portion of parenting plans tends to be unique in at least some way for 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 or not?  Are there extended family or friends with whom it is important the children maintain relationships?

Many attorneys treat these special occasion 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, and potentially further litigation and costs.

Baer Family Law truly wants your family to succeed post-litigation with reduced conflict and overall satisfaction with the orders and agreements that I have helped you obtain.  This is why, when creating parenting plans and proposals to the court, I 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.  I have extensive experience creating detailed parenting plans that are specifically tailored to each client’s individualized family’s needs, while providing samples and input based on what I have seen work well for other families.

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Authored by: Rebecca R. Baer, Esq.