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Minnesota Child Custody: Parenting Time Disputes Over the Holidays

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It is December in Minnesota as I write this, with Thanksgiving behind us and with Christmas right around the corner (we are also receiving over a foot of snow today to put us in the holiday mood).  Tis the season for every Minnesota family law attorney to start receiving the telephone calls regarding holiday parenting time disputes with their minor children.

All too common in Minnesota divorce decrees and in Minnesota child custody orders, are parenting time schedules that provide loose terms for the parties' holiday time with their minor children. Some orders do not provide for a holiday schedule at all, some simply provide for "alternating holidays," while other schedules provide for specific holidays but not specific times for exchanging the children for holidays.

This is most prevalent for Christmas visitation and time with the children, when an order provides that "mom shall have the children on Christmas Eve and dad shall have the children on Christmas day." The question then becomes - when does Christmas Eve end and Christmas Day begin? Is it Christmas Eve evening or Christmas Day morning? For most young children, "Santa arrives" sometime overnight on Christmas Eve, prior to Christmas Day morning, so it makes a substantial difference. Also, many families have traditions on Christmas Eve evening, Christmas Day morning and for a Christmas Day dinner. Not to mention, many families will work in a visit to their church on either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Usually, family traditions run deep with regard to where and when these holiday traditions occur. Often times, if the parents do not receive proper legal advise during the Minnesota divorce or Minnesota child custody process, these details will not be addressed in the final Minnesota child custody order or divorce decree.

Also, I am frequently told by my Minnesota divorce or Minnesota child custody clients that, "Oh I can work out these details with my soon to be ex (or the father/mother of my children) because we get along well." Well, first I want to commend such individuals that they have the current ability to cooperate with the other parent regarding these parenting time details. However, the key word there is "current" ability. Lets say the parties have a two year old child, then they will have to cooperate for the next 16 years on such details (at least 16 years under the watchful eyes of the Court). And yes, it is true, many of these individuals are unable to agree as the years pass.

Therefore, I almost always recommend to my Minnesota divorce and Minnesota child custody clients to include an extremely specific and detailed parenting time schedule and holiday schedule to use, if not only as a "default." By this I mean, if the parties get along well now, they can choose to deviate from the specific schedule. However, if the proverbial "push comes to shove" then they have a specific parenting time schedule to default to, and there would be no need to make a frantic last minute call to their local Minnesota family law attorney.

By: Adam Blahnik, Prior Lake attorney and owner of Blahnik Law Office, PLLC.

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