Frequently Asked Custody Questions 5

As visitation and custody lawyers in Denver, the experienced family law attorneys at Plog & Stein, P.C. answer numerous questions each day regarding child related issues. This includes questions concerning the establishment, modification, and enforcement of custody orders. Below are more of the questions frequently asked of our experienced attorneys. In our continuing effort to provide information regarding Colorado family law, we will update these questions from time to time with new ones.


(See Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 14, Article 10, Section 123 and 124)

How does a court set holiday visitation?

In most divorce and custody cases with children, it is common for there to be orders in place regarding holiday visitation, whether entered by agreement or the court. As most cases usually settle without a judge handing down a decision, the parties usually jointly arrive at a holiday schedule. The first step is identifying the holidays that are important to each party. The next step is to figure out a fair, balanced rotation that works for all. In most instances, holidays will be alternated on an even/odd year basis, such that if one party has a specific holiday one year, the other will have it the next. Each family is different and holidays of importance can vary. At a minimum, courts will order provisions for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Mother’s/Father’s Day. Other holidays are generally also added to schedules, including Easter, Memorial/Labor Day, and the 4 th of July. Some people will request every holiday and birthday imaginable. Also included in most holiday visitation schedules are breaks from school, such as Winter Break, Spring Break, and Fall Break. Winter Break will usually be divided into halves, which are alternated from year to year. Spring and Fall Breaks are also generally alternated and will include at least one of the attached weekends. In most instances, parties will agree, or the court will order, that holiday visitation supersedes regular and vacation visitation. This means that regardless of who regular parenting time it is, the person allocated the holiday with the children will get it, no matter what. Of course, this means that one person may lose his or her regular parenting time due to the other exercising a holiday. Because this will happen to both parties at various times each year, the courts generally will not enter orders authorizing make up visitation due to time lost for a holiday. If one party wants holiday orders in place, the court will generally enter a typical holiday schedule over the objection of the other. The experienced Denver custody attorneys at Plog & Stein are available to answer your questions regarding holiday visitation.

What is “primary residential custody”?

“Primary residential custody” generally refers to the person with whom the children reside a majority of the time. Primary residential custody can generally only be changed via agreement, in instances in which the primary custodian wishes to relocate elsewhere, or if the court finds physical or emotional danger in his or her home or care of the children. Being the primary residential custodian does not confer greater rights to a parent regarding the making of major decisions, but will generally result in the children going to school in that person’s district, even if there is joint decision making or no agreement on that issue. As equal, or 50/50 visitation in Colorado becomes more common, parties must recognize that neither has the primary residential status as relates to visitation (parenting time). Additionally, statute also indicates the orders entered by the court must designate one party’s home as the child’s legal residence for state and federal legal purposes requiring such a distinction. This generally has no bearing on visitation or the right to jointly make major decisions. If someone says, “I have custody of my kids,” they are generally referring to having primary residential custody, as opposed to legal.

What is a normal out-of-state parenting schedule?

The Denver divorce attorneys at Plog & Stein, P.C. deal with all aspects of divorce and custody cases related to children. As the economy has become more national and uncertain over the years, it has become more common for people to leave Colorado for either job or other economic reasons. As such, our experienced attorneys have recently seen more cases in which one parent or the other needs to relocate from Colorado, or is already out of state. In these instances, a parenting plan will need to be developed which affords as much time as possible for the non-custodial parent. Of course, courts will set visitation in an age appropriate fashion, recognizing that younger children may not do as well as older ones when it comes to being away from the custodial parent for extended periods of time. Assuming the children are old enough, a common out-of-state parenting plan would likely include the children being with the non-custodial parent for one week of the Winter Break, alternating Spring Breaks (sometimes each Spring Break), and the vast majority of the Summer. Usually the custodial parent will get at least a week at the beginning of summer and a week at the end, to get the children ready to return to school. Additionally, it is not uncommon for the schedule to include provisions allowing the non-custodial parent to return to Colorado at least one weekend a month to see the children. In some instances, Thanksgiving break may also be added, as well as long weekends.

As travel costs for the children are generally going to be split proportionately to the parties’ incomes, as indicated in the Colorado child support statute, C.R.S. 14-10-115, courts will generally only order costs be split for the major blocks of time, not the lesser weekends. In light of the cost of travel, it is not common for the other lesser holidays to be added into an out-of-state schedule, unless the non-custodial parent is willing to travel at his or her own cost for such. Again, each family is different and the above stated schedule may not work for all. As experienced custody and visitation attorneys in Denver, Plog & Stein can help you with developing your out-of-state parenting schedule.

Contact the experienced Denver divorce and custody attorneys at Plog & Stein, via the firm website or at (303) 781-0322, to discuss all of your custody concerns.

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