The holiday season is often filled with joy, warmth, and the spirit of togetherness. However, for divorced parents, it can also bring a sense of uncertainty and potential conflict when it comes to parenting time arrangements. In Colorado, as in many other states, divorced parents must navigate the complexities of holiday parenting time. In this article, we will explore the guidelines, tips, and considerations for successfully managing parenting time around the holidays post-divorce in the beautiful state of Colorado.

Legal Framework in Colorado

In Colorado, parenting time arrangements post-divorce are determined based on the best interests of the child. While the specifics of parenting time can vary from case to case, the state provides guidelines to help parents create a framework for their parenting plans.

Parenting Plan: Colorado law mandates that parents create a comprehensive parenting plan as part of their divorce proceedings. This plan outlines various aspects of parenting, including the allocation of parenting time and decision-making responsibilities. It should include details regarding how holidays and special occasions will be handled.

Court Approval: For parenting time arrangements to be legally binding, they must be approved by the court. Courts typically prefer parents to reach an agreement on their own, but they can step in and make decisions if an agreement is not possible.

Holidays and Special Occasions: Colorado’s legal framework recognizes the importance of maintaining stability and meaningful relationships for the child, especially during the holiday season. Therefore, parenting plans should specify how holidays and special occasions will be divided between the parents.

Common Approaches to Holiday Parenting Time

In Colorado, as in many other states, there are several common approaches to dividing holiday parenting time. These approaches aim to strike a balance between allowing the child to spend quality time with both parents while ensuring stability during the holiday season. Some of the common methods include:

Alternating Holidays: One common approach is to alternate holidays every year. For example, in year one, the child might spend Thanksgiving with one parent and Christmas with the other, and then switch the following year. This approach provides a fair distribution of holiday time between both parents.

Splitting the Day: In some cases, parents may agree to split the holiday itself. This could mean that the child spends the morning with one parent and the afternoon and evening with the other. This approach allows the child to enjoy special moments with both parents during the holiday.

Extended Visitation: Another approach is for one parent to have extended visitation during the holiday season. For example, the child might spend the entire winter break with one parent, and the other parent could have extended visitation during the summer break. This approach allows the child to have an uninterrupted holiday experience with one parent.

Tips for Co-Parenting During the Holidays

Co-parenting during the holiday season can be challenging, but with the right approach and a commitment to your child’s well-being, it can be a successful and positive experience. Here are some tips to help divorced parents in Colorado navigate the holiday season:

Plan Ahead: Start discussing holiday parenting time well in advance of the holiday season. This gives both parents time to reach an agreement and make necessary arrangements.

Communicate Effectively: Open and honest communication is key. Discuss your expectations, preferences, and concerns with your co-parent. Be flexible and willing to compromise for the benefit of your child.

Be Child-Centered: Always prioritize your child’s well-being and happiness. Consider their age, preferences, and emotional needs when making holiday arrangements. Keep the focus on creating positive holiday memories for your child.

When in Doubt, Follow the Parenting Plan: If you have a court-approved parenting plan, adhere to it unless you have a clear alternate agreement established in writing with your Co-Parent. Consistency and avoidance of unnecessary conflict are essential for your child’s stability and security, especially during the holidays.

Create New Traditions: Embrace the opportunity to create new traditions and special moments with your child during the holidays. These can help make the holiday season feel special and unique, even in a co-parenting situation.

Avoid Competing with Your Co-Parent: It’s important not to compete with your co-parent for your child’s affection or attention during the holidays. Encourage your child to enjoy their time with the other parent and avoid making negative comments.

Coordinate Gifts and Celebrations: If you have a peaceful enough relationship with your Co-Parent, coordinate gift-giving and holiday celebrations to avoid redundancy. This can help prevent conflicts and ensure a smoother holiday experience for your child.  Some Co-Parents function more peacefully through parallel parenting, which means that this kind of coordination is not possible.  The reduction of conflict is paramount, so stick to what works best for your co-parenting relationship.

Be Supportive of Your Child: Be empathetic and supportive of your child’s feelings. The holiday season can be emotionally challenging, so ensure your child knows they can turn to you for comfort and understanding.

The Role of Mediation

When parents cannot agree on holiday parenting time, mediation can be a valuable resource. In Colorado, mediation is often recommended to help parents resolve disputes and reach a mutually acceptable solution. A trained mediator can assist in facilitating constructive discussions and finding common ground. Mediation can help reduce the need for court intervention and maintain a more amicable co-parenting relationship.  If you are aware of potential upcoming conflicts over the holidays, establish an understanding of the conflict early and mediate long before flights or travel arrangements need to be made.  The Court system cannot accommodate last-minute scheduling conflicts 99% of the time.

Key Considerations for Parents

As you navigate parenting time around the holidays post-divorce in Colorado, it’s essential to keep certain key considerations in mind:

Legal Framework: Familiarize yourself with Colorado’s legal framework for parenting time and the specific provisions in your parenting plan related to holidays.

Child’s Age and Needs: Tailor your holiday arrangements to your child’s age and developmental stage. Younger children may require more structure and predictability, while older children may appreciate more input into the schedule.  Regardless of age and developmental stage, the actual child’s individual needs should be the focus.  Some children are much more adaptive and resilient while other children suffer terribly with new change.

Travel and Logistics: If one parent lives a considerable distance away, it’s important to plan for travel logistics and associated costs during the holiday season.  These plans should be made well in advance of the actual parenting time to avoid conflict and misunderstandings wherever possible.

Flexibility: Be prepared for unexpected changes and unforeseen circumstances. Flexibility is crucial when navigating holiday parenting time.  Whenever possible, consider compromises and small variations to the Court-ordered parenting time if it serves your child’s best interests.

Conclusion

Navigating parenting time around the holidays post-divorce in Colorado can be a complex process, but with the right mindset, effective communication, and a focus on your child’s well-being, it is possible to create positive holiday experiences. Legal guidelines, common approaches to holiday parenting time, and the option of mediation are all resources that can help divorced parents successfully co-parent during this special time of year. By working together and prioritizing the best interests of your child, you can make the holiday season a joyful and memorable time for your family, even after divorce.