Parenting Time and the Holidays

Child Custody, Parenting Time, and the Holidays

The holidays are usually a great time for children.  However there is one sure way to spoil a child’s experience.  When both parents are fighting, being petty over little things, and putting their wants first, the child will often lose.  This is true in general, but can be especially painful during what should otherwise be a joyous and happy time for the child.

The Parenting Time Trap

Holidays can often be a special time.  Along these lines, parents may place great importance on this time, and rightfully so.  However, because of this importance it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that this is the time to dig in one’s heels and “assert my parenting rights”.

With this in mind, here are some suggestions to make the holiday experience as best as it can possibly be when there are parenting time issues.

Ten Ideas for Holiday Parenting Time

  1. The best interests of the children should come first … always
  2. Holidays can be a great time to build the relationship between parent and child.  This goes for both parents
  3. Court-ordered parenting time schedules, which should include holiday provisions, are still the rule …
  4. … But flexibility can also go a long way towards building goodwill with the other parent and making it a better holiday time for your children
  5. Along those lines, building in some holiday time for each parent with the child is often the best strategy
  6. Understand that the other parent’s holiday decisions are sometimes based on family decisions, not just his or her own.  Sometimes he or she may not be able to control a schedule conflict
  7. Usually, each parent places the same amount of value and importance of spending holiday time with their children
  8. Usually the children, especially younger ones, place the same amount of value and importance of spending holiday time with each parent
  9. One side is not “losing” if they generously offer flexibility to accommodate what’s best for their children
  10. Lastly, if any disputes over these issues go to court, a judge is generally going to be very underwhelmed with the party behaving unreasonably and disregarding the interests of his or her children.  This may be especially true for behavior during the holidays.

Happy Holidays to everyone.  I hope no one has to deal with bad custody situations during this time.

Can I Get an Annulment in Minnesota?

The short answer, is probably “no”.  There seem to be a lot of popular misconceptions about annulments.  In particular, some believe that annulment is simply a convenient alternative to divorce and preferably a low-cost one.  This is simply not the case.

Divorce vs. Annulment

A divorce is different from an annulment.  A divorce is the legalized end of a valid marriage.  An annulment is a legal recognition that the marriage had some deficiency from the start and therefore will not be recognized as a marriage from the start. 

The reality is, in Minnesota there are only a few narrow circumstances in which you may be entitled to an annulment.  In Minnesota, there are two types of situation in which an annulment may apply.  There are “void” marriages and “voidable” marriages.

Void vs. Voidable Marriages

Void marriages refer to marriages that were never and can never be valid as a matter of law.  These fall into three types:

  • Same-sex marriages
  • Marriages with close blood relatives
  • Marriages when one party was still previously married

Most frequently I see this question pop up for the last situation.  Specifically, a later spouse discovers that their partner was married previously and had never been legally divorced.  In this situation, the latter marriage is automatically invalid in Minnesota.  The solution is to have the married party legally divorce and then remarry their second spouse.

Voidable marriages are those that will be allowed to continue, despite their deficiency, unless one party or the other challenges the marriage in a timely manner based on the deficiency.  Voidable marriages in Minnesota include:

  • At least one party was underage (less than 18)
  • At least one party was not able to consummate the marriage and the other party did not know of this at the time of marriage or
  • At least one party lacked capacity due to any of:

Incapacity due to being under the influence of drugs or alcohol

Mental incapacity

One party committed fraud or used force to compel the marriage

Annulment Conditions Usually Don’t Apply to Divorce Situations

The bulk of reasons for dissolving a marriage, like financial struggles, infidelity, disagreements regarding child care, or abuse don’t generally trigger the conditions needed for an annulment.  This is why divorce, not annulment, is almost always the proper course of action if one party wants to get out of a marriage.