This blog focuses on some tips for preventing such disputes in the first place or, if they arise, for resolving them speedily without the involvement of the Court.
The number one solution is for parents to have a Parenting Plan that is preventative. A "preventative" plan spells out in detail the sharing of the children's time. So, for example, a good Parenting Plan should not say only "alternating holidays," with no explanation of what that means. Rather, using Christmas as an example (Christmas is the most fought-over holiday in the experience of this author), a Parenting Plan might state:
Christmas shall be observed as a two-day holiday, December 24 and December 25 (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). Father shall have the children for Christmas Eve in odd-numbered years from 9 a.m. on Christmas Eve day (December 24) until 9 a.m. on Christmas Day (December 25), with mother having the children from 9 a.m. on Christmas Day for the remainder of the day and the Christmas Day overnight until 9 a.m. on December 26. In even-numbered years, the schedule shall be reversed, so that mother has the children for Christmas Eve from 9 a.m. on Christmas Eve day until 9 a.m. on Christmas Day, with father having the children from 9 a.m. on Christmas Day until 9 a.m on December 26. Transportation for Christmas parenting time shall be by the parent who is starting her or his parenting time, as it is for all other exchanges of the children that do not take place at school or day care.
This example will strike some parents as "too detailed." But better too detailed than not detailed enough. The example leaves little if any room for argument. That is exactly what is needed – enough detail to keep parents out of Court, and their children out of the middle.
Another tip for parents who want to avoid Court is to agree to the appointment of a Decision Maker under Colorado Revised Statutes § 14-10-128.3. The Decision Maker must be agreed to by both parents – in other words, a Judge or Magistrate cannot impose a Decision Maker on parents. If the parents agree to a Decision Maker, but cannot agree to who that person will be, the Court can select someone, who may be given the authority to decide parenting time disputes. Decision Makers can decide issues much more quickly than Courts. The down side for some parents is the cost, which can vary from $30 per hour to $300 or more per hour, depending on the charges of the person appointed.
Still another method for deciding such disputes is giving the authority to one of the parents. So, for example, parents might agree in their Parenting Plan that mother would decide all parenting time disputes, while father would resolve all other types of disputes (such as those about extracurricular activities). Or the parents can agree that they will alternate deciding disputed issues about their children. Very few parents agree to these types of arrangements. Parents generally have a hard time giving up their "power" to the other parent after they are no longer "together" as a couple.
The important point is that kids should not be put in the middle. The parents need to have a detailed schedule that leaves no "wiggle room." That way, when there is a disagreement, the parents can go to the Parenting Plan, look up what is required and then follow their own agreement. Parents do not have to follow the Parenting Plan provided that both of them agree to a variation. But if there is not a detailed plan, there is nothing to fall back on in the case of disagreement.
By Doris Truhlar