How does joint custody work?

By Kate Miller
November 28, 2017
How does joint custody work?

A custody agreement, joint or otherwise, is reduced to writing so that both parties have an understanding of the agreement. This writing is called a parenting plan. Parenting plans outline regular parenting time, vacation time, holiday time, decision making for both major and day to day decisions, relocation issues, contact between the parties and the child, transportation, tax dependency exemptions of the child, child support, and many more issues.

The parenting plan becomes an enforceable court order. If the parties are unable to agree the court will make its order regarding parenting time, decision making, and child support. And the court order will act as the parenting plan moving forward. Decisions considered major decisions are any decision that falls under the categories of religion, extracurricular activities, medical, dental and mental health, aside from routine care of course.

For example a decision to attend a school play is not a major decision, to change schools is a major decision. Day to day decisions can vary but generally day to day decisions are decisions for routine medical care like checkups or decisions for chores or allowance. There are three types of parenting time, regular, vacation, and holiday. Regular parenting time is the day to day agreement for parenting time. Regular time is usually divided into two categories, school year and summer time. But many parents choose to keep the regular schedule the same year round.

Vacation parenting time supersedes regular time such that a parent taking vacation that overlaps with the other parent's time has priority. While both parents will usually have the option to take vacation time one parent will have priority in even years and the other parent will have priority in odd years to prevent an overlap of vacations. A parent who loses time due to the other parent's vacation does not get to make up their regularly scheduled time.

The third category of parenting time is called holiday time. Holiday time supersedes both vacation time and regular time meaning that one parent cannot take a vacation on the other parent's designated holiday. If a parent loses regular time because of the other parent's holiday, the parent losing regular time does not get to make up that time. Holiday time is also alternated even in odd years. For example if Mom gets Christmas in an odd year, Dad will get Christmas in an even year. This makes holiday time even between the two parents in every two year cycle.

Kate Miller is a Denver, Colorado attorney focused exclusively on the practices of divorce and family law. She has lived many of the issues regarding divorce and child custody, and is passionate about helping people through this process. To learn more about Kate and her firm visit

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November 28, 2017
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