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I Want to Take My Children on Vacation but There is no Provision in our Custody Orders. What can I do?

Generally, most custody and visitation orders, particularly when drafted by an attorney, are going to have significant detail regarding all aspects of raising a child. This will include provisions regarding parental responsibilities related to major decisions, primary residence, parenting time (visitation), and various other subjects which may need regulating between the parents. One of the key, lesser though important issues that should be dealt with in any “parenting plan” is making sure there are provisions for holiday and vacation parenting time.

Unfortunately, there are situations in which people leave these types of provisions out of their original orders or agreements. This can happen for various reasons. In some cases, people resolve their divorce or Colorado custody cases on their own, not knowing that it is normal for there to be specific language regarding vacations and holidays. In other cases, things may be amicable at the time of resolution to the point where people believe they can work out vacations or holidays on their own, without need for specific language. This type of an approach may work well when the parents are getting along. However, in times when they are not, one parent may become inflexible, holding the other to the specific terms of the custody orders. Having a Denver child custody attorney assist you in formulating all of your visitation orders, including as relates to vacations or holidays, can cut down on ambiguity and argument months or years down the road.

In Colorado, it is normal for people to have specific vacation provisions in their custody orders. These types or orders may vary depending on the age of the children, the regular parenting time schedule, and the kids’ school schedules. If your orders do not contain provisions regarding vacations or blocks of parenting time, courts will generally be receptive to a requests for such and will find vacations to be in the “best interest” of a child.

The first step to gaining vacation parenting time should always be to confer with the other party. If the two parents are able to agree, they should put their agreements in writing. A stipulation actually filed with the court would be preferable, as it will become an enforceable order. If the other parent does not agree, the next step will be to file a Motion to Modify Parenting Time pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-129. With courts generally being receptive to there being vacations provisions in custody orders, it is highly likely the motion will be granted. However, things are not always resolved quickly in the judicial system and motions to modify can potentially take several months to resolve. As such, it is advisable to take action as soon as you know you have an issue. Any requests to modify should contain a detailed proposal as to how vacation time will be allocated. Additionally, courts are generally going to view vacation parenting time as something afforded to both parents and not just germane to the person filing.

There are situations in which the need for orders regarding vacation time can be more time sensitive. Perhaps an impromptu travel opportunity has arisen. In other cases, one party may have verbally agreed to a vacation, but is now retracting that permission. In these instances, motions regarding a specific trip can be filed as “forthwith,” which indicates to the court the need for resolution is pressing. Courts are generally not going to view a vacation request as an “emergency,” but will likely be willing to address things quickly, presuming the asking party didn’t just wait until the last minute.

Typically, orders regarding vacation parenting time will allow for one to two weeks during the summer. These blocks can be taken consecutively or separately. Moreover, “vacation” parenting time is a different concept from holiday parenting time tied into school breaks. School breaks, whether Spring or Winter, are often divided or rotated and specifically enumerated in parenting plans. When your orders lack the detail and provisions necessary to allow you to take vacations with your children, contacting a child custody attorney to assess your situation should be the first step.

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Stephen Plog, co-founder of Plog & Stein, P.C. in 1999, is a dedicated family law attorney with almost two decades of expertise in Denver. Focused exclusively on family law since 2001, he excels in both intricate legal writing and courtroom litigation, having navigated cases in all Denver metropolitan area District Courts. Steve’s comprehensive background, including a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a law degree from Quinnipiac University School of Law, underscores his commitment to providing insightful and personalized representation in family law matters.