When you have children and are trying to determine a good parenting plan, there are many considerations. To begin, legally, the word “custody” is no longer used by the courts. But “custody” is typically the easiest way for non-lawyers to understand what is legally called “parenting time.” “Custody” or “parenting time” just means the time you spend with your children and when that happens. Visitation rights are the rights given to a parent without primary custody of the children, and usually they do not get overnight parenting time. A “parenting plan” is the schedule that you use to schedule and allocate the times and places where the children will be throughout the week and on holidays and vacations.
Courts typically use a two-week period of time to formulate parenting plans. The most important consideration for selecting a parenting plan is in the children’s best interests. To choose the best parenting plan, consider the child’s age, extracurricular activities, and previous routine before implementing the new plan. Additionally, you will want to consider your co-parenting relationship and whether it is feasible to select that specific parenting plan. If there is a lot of conflict between you and your co-parent, you will want to limit the number of exchanges necessary. For more about custody and parenting time generally, check out our parenting time guide.
Read on to learn more about Colorado’s most common parenting plans:
50/50 Custody Schedules
If you seek to split parenting time of the children 50/50 with your co-parent, then these parenting plans are the most common.
Week on, Week off (7/7) Parenting Plan
This plan is most used with older children. This is also the most straightforward parenting plan to use as it limits exchanges and always happens on the same day. You will pick one day of the week to exchange the children. Commonly, parents use Sunday for exchanges or Monday after school to limit contact with the other parent if exchanges are problematic. Just like the name of the plan, you will have the children for one week, and then your co-parent gets the next week.
5/2/2/5 Parenting Plan
This parenting plan is often used for younger children because it limits consecutive time away from the other parent. But, this increases the number of exchanges that need to be made. This is an important consideration if the co-parenting relationship is difficult. A 5/2/2/5 plan means each party always has the same two days, and then the parties alternate weekends. For example, Father would always have Mondays and Tuesdays. Mother would always have Wednesdays and Thursdays. Then, Mother and Father would alternate every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
3/4/4/3 Parenting Plan
This parenting plan is also better suited for younger children to limit consecutive time away from the other parent. Just like the 5/2/2/5 plan, this increases the number of exchanges required. This is an essential consideration if exchanges are complicated. A 3/4/4/3 plan gives each parent the same overnights, but the parties alternate either Saturday or Sunday each week. The table below illustrates a 3/4/4/3 plan where Mother and Father alternate Saturdays.
2/2/3 Parenting Plan
A 2/2/3 plan is commonly called the “every other weekend plan.” Each parent gets two days a week, and then the parent with the children at the beginning of the week will have the children for that weekend. After the weekend, the children go to the other parent. So the children’s longest time away from the other parent is limited to 3 days. For example:
60/40 and 70/30 Custody Schedules
4/3 Parenting Plan
If you have been ordered to follow a 60/40 custody schedule, the parties commonly agree to use a 4/3 plan. So if you have 60% of the parenting time, you get four days of the week, and your co-parent only gets 3 days. Commonly parties select the following 4/3 schedule to eliminate the days changing every week:
As you can see above, if you use a traditional 4/3 schedule, this often eliminates weekend parenting time for one parent. To allow each parent to exercise some weekend parenting time on a 60/40 plan, the parties will alternate between specific days and then each weekend. For example, in the table below, Mother and Father switch their time on Tuesdays and Thursday to allow for alternating weekend parenting time:
60/40 and 70/30 Custody Schedules
Relocation Parenting Plans
If you plan on relocating with your children, it is best to raise this issue before the court enters any orders. If you need to relocate after orders are entered and your co-parent objects, it is more challenging to get the court’s approval.
To relocate when your co-parent objects, you must move to relocate with the court, and typically this results in an evidentiary hearing with the court as this is treated as a modification of parenting time under C.R.S. § 14-10-129. The court must consider these factors for relocation:
- The reasons why the party wishes to relocate with the child;
- The reasons why the opposing party is objecting to the proposed relocation;
- The history and quality of each party’s relationship with the child since any previous parenting time order;
- The educational opportunities for the child at the existing location and at the proposed new location;
- The presence or absence of extended family at the existing location and at the proposed new location;
- Any advantages of the child remaining with the primary caregiver;
- The anticipated impact of the move on the child;
- Whether the court will be able to fashion a reasonable parenting time schedule if the change requested is permitted; and
- Any other relevant factors bearing on the best interests of the child.
If the court allows you to relocate, the court will designate a primary residential parent. The court will either select you as the primary residential parent, which usually means you will have the children during the school year. Then the other parent usually gets the children during school breaks and the summer. However, sometimes a court may allow you to relocate but designate the other parent as the primary residential parent. Under these circumstances, you will want to divide the financial responsibilities of travel between you and your co-parent.
Long-Distance Parenting Plans (But where both parents live in Colorado)
If you and your co-parent live far from one another, it is crucial to establish a schedule that makes it workable for exchanges. However, frequently, one parent has the children for the school year while the other parent gets the children for school breaks and summers. Usually, this schedule is the only workable way to keep the children consistent because they cannot go to one school for a month and then to a different school the next month. You also will want to agree to the financial responsibilities of each party for the cost of travel.
Parenting Plans where one Parent has No overnights or Very Few
If the court limited your co-parent’s parenting time to no overnights, it is still vital to establish a schedule for the co-parent’s visitation hours. The court will order the number of hours your child must spend with the other parent. It is essential to consider that if you select every Saturday, then this would mean you have no uninterrupted weekend parenting time. You will often want to consider every other weekend and give more time on that one day versus every weekend. This also could mean selecting a consistent weeknight. You will want to memorialize this type of parenting plan as well to avoid disputes in the future.
Drafting the Parenting Plan
Regardless of the parenting plan you think best suits your family, it is helpful to seek the guidance of an experienced family law attorney to draft the parenting plan. While there are forms available online, they do not give legal advice or helpful information to consider before filing a permanent plan with the court. Remember, any changes made to the parenting plan filed with the court will require a motion later if your co-parent objects to the modifications. Here at Griffiths Law, our many experienced attorneys skillfully draft parenting plans with every consideration in mind to eliminate the need for costly litigation.
Jamie Paine is an Associate Attorney at Griffiths Law. Paine’s practice focuses on domestic relations matters. Paine also served several years as a prosecutor, and this helps her litigate highly contentious cases with strategy and empathy.