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Child Custody & Parenting Time

Colorado Child Custody Attorneys

For many of you, the most challenging part of this legal process will be determining the allocation of parenting time and parental responsibilities for your children. At Griffiths Law, we understand that. Our custody attorneys are experts in parenting matters. Whether your case is simple or complex, our attorneys can help you achieve the best result. Our attorneys recognize that this is probably one of the hardest times for you and your children. We will guide you through the process with empathy, solid judgment, and sound advice.

Child Custody Representation with Griffiths Law

The “Best Interests of the Child” Standard

If you have conducted internet searches on child custody and parenting time in Colorado, you have probably stumbled upon the best interests of the child standard. Before the court enters any orders regarding parenting time, the court must consider certain factors. See below:

(I) The wishes of the child’s parents as to parenting time;

(II) The wishes of the child if he or she is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to the parenting time schedule;

(III) The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents, his or her siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;

(IV) The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;

(V) The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability alone shall not be a basis to deny or restrict parenting time;

(VI) The ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party; except that, if the court determines that a party is acting to protect the child from witnessing domestic violence or from being a victim of child abuse or neglect or domestic violence, the party’s protective actions shall not be considered with respect to this factor;

(VII) Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support;

(VIII) The physical proximity of the parties to each other as this relates to the practical considerations of parenting time;

(IX) Repealed

(X) Repealed

(XI) The ability of each party to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs.

You and your attorney must consider the best interest factors when deciding how to argue your parenting case. You and the other parent may agree to any parenting time arrangement that you believe to be in the best interests of the children. This leaves room for creativity in parenting plans that work for both parents and meet the needs of the children. If you cannot agree, the court ultimately determines what parenting time arrangement is in the best interests of the child. The court will decide after hearing recommendations from an expert such as a Child and Family Investigator or Parental Responsibilities Evaluator. To learn more about effectively preparing your case for settlement or trial, schedule a consultation with an attorney at Griffiths Law.

You and your attorney must consider the best interest factors when deciding how to argue your parenting case. You and the other parent may agree to any parenting time arrangement that you believe to be in the best interests of the children. This leaves room for creativity in parenting plans that work for both parents and meet the needs of the children. If you cannot agree, the court ultimately determines what parenting time arrangement is in the best interests of the child. The court will decide after hearing recommendations from an expert such as a Child and Family Investigator or Parental Responsibilities Evaluator. To learn more about effectively preparing your case for settlement or trial, schedule a consultation with an attorney at Griffiths Law.

 

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (Decision Making)

You may wonder how decisions get made for the children once you have separated. There are certain factors that the court must consider when allocating decision-making responsibility between the parents, including:

(I) Credible evidence of the ability of the parties to cooperate and to make decisions jointly;

(II) Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support that would indicate an ability as mutual decision-makers to provide a positive and nourishing relationship with the child;

(III) Whether an allocation of mutual decision-making responsibility on any one or a number of issues will promote more frequent or continuing contact between the child and each of the parties.

Courts tend to favor an allocation of “joint decision” making responsibility between both parties. This common situation is where the court orders that the parents make major decisions on behalf of the children jointly. Major decisions include education, medical, religious, extracurricular and mental health decisions for the children. When parents cannot decide together, courts may consider giving decision making to one or the other parent. This reduces conflict because the parents do not need to decide together. The attorneys at Griffiths Law can help you navigate the potential outcomes as it relates to decision making in your case.

 

Temporary Parenting Plans

Often, when you file a divorce action, you and your spouse will begin living apart. When children are involved, and you cannot agree about the division of parenting time, it leaves the children without a predictable parenting plan until the court gets involved. Absent an emergency, it can take weeks for courts to hold a temporary orders hearing to determine the temporary allocation of parenting time and parental responsibilities.

It is important to create a temporary parenting plan as soon as possible before or immediately after the parties’ initial separation. The temporary parenting plan is critical because it inevitably sets a precedent for further parenting plans. Because of this, you must consult with an attorney quickly so that you can get parenting time right away.

 

Shared Physical Care versus Sole Custody

Under the child support statute, “shared physical care” is when each parent keeps the children overnight for over 92 overnights each year and that both parents contribute to the expenses of the children besides the payment of child support. See C.R.S. §14–10–115(3)(h). The statute defines “split physical care” as when each parent has physical care of at least one child most of the time. See C.R.S. § 14–10–115(3)(i). Typically, courts try to keep all the children together and on the same parenting-time schedule.

Colorado law provides no presumption in favor of one parent over the other based on gender. However, historically, mothers were given preference in that regard. Now, parental responsibilities are allocated based on what is in the best interests of the children.

Various scenarios may justify an unequal (or even restricted) parenting-time schedule that should be considered when formulating a parenting time arrangement:

    • Extensive travel (unavailability) by a parent;
    • Demanding special needs of the child;
    • Drug abuse by a parent;
    • Alcohol abuse by a parent;
    • Mental illness;
    • Psychological/verbal abuse by a parent on the child;
    • Physical abuse by a parent on the child;
    • Psychological/verbal abuse by a parent on their spouse; and,
    • Physical abuse by a parent on their spouse;

If any of these scenarios are familiar, it may be necessary to appoint an expert to make expert recommendations as to the allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. For details on the different types of custody evaluations, please check out our blog related to CFIs and PREs.

If your case has unique circumstances that may require an expert, it is critical that you consult with an attorney and get advice as soon as possible. Custody evaluations are invasive and uncomfortable. For many clients, this is the first time that you have been scrutinized as a parent, and it is scary to be put in a situation where your actions and behavior are being observed and reported.

 

Relocation Requests

When you request to relocate with the children, you are requesting to change the geographic relationship with the other parent “substantially.” There is a different standard depending on when the request to relocate is made during the initial case or afterward.

Relocation as part of the initial custody determination. The legal standard for an initial custody determination relocation is the best interest’s standard addressed above. In this scenario, the court must assess the relocation request as if the moving parent already lives in the new location. The analysis is fact-driven, and each factor set forth in the statute must be considered as part of the relocation request.

Relocation after the initial custody determination. These relocation requests are governed by C.R.S. § 14–10–129, which is the modification of parenting time statute. The statute identifies the factors to be considered for a relocation request by the majority-parent after parenting time orders are already in place:

(I) The reasons why the party wishes to relocate with the child;

(II) The reasons why the opposing party is objecting to the proposed relocation;

(III) The history and quality of each party’s relationship with the child since any previous parenting time order;

(IV) The educational opportunities for the child at the existing location and at the proposed new location;

(V) The presence or absence of extended family at the existing location and at the proposed new location;

(VI) Any advantages of the child remaining with the primary caregiver;

(VII) The anticipated impact of the move on the child;

(VIII) Whether the court will be able to fashion a reasonable parenting time schedule if the change requested is permitted; and

(IX) Any other relevant factors bearing on the best interests of the child.

A parent with equal parenting time is considered a majority-time parent for purposes of this statute. Additionally, in post-dissolution relocation proceedings, the party intending to relocate must provide written notice of his or her intent to relocate, including the location where the party intends to reside, the reason for relocation, and a proposed revised parenting plan. Relocation requests are given priority on the court’s docket. See C.R.S. § 14–10–129(1)(a)(II).

 

Drafting Parenting Plans

Parenting plans can be uniquely crafted to the needs of your family. You and your attorney must make some practical considerations before formulating a parenting plan considering things such as:

1. Age of the children;

2. Activities the children are involved in;

3. Religious affiliation;

4. The parties ability to co-parent/communicate; and,

5. The level of conflict in the case.

There are various “templates” that can serve as a starting point to create your perfect plan. In every parenting plan, there must be adequate provisions for the allocation of decision-making and the division of parenting time, including holiday and vacation parenting time.

For parenting plans with an equal parenting time division, there are several common templates as follows:

 

5-2-2-5 Parenting Plan

A 5-2-2-5 schedule is beneficial for families with younger children because there is more frequent contact with both parents.

 

Week-On/Week-Off Parenting Plan

A week-on/week-off parenting time schedule is beneficial for families with older children, particularly where the children are engaged in weekly activities and plans with friends.

Parenting time allocations can vary immensely depending on the agreements of the parents and the best interests of the children. You should consider dinner visits if the children may go an extended period without seeing the other parent.

For holidays, the parties should first determine what holidays are important enough to the family to include in the parenting plan. Some parties elect to divide all holidays, whereas other parties choose to include select holidays and have the remaining holidays fall as they may within the regular parenting time schedule. For those holidays which the parties elect to include in a parenting plan, it is most common to equally divide the holidays with one party receiving the parenting time on such holiday in even-numbered years and the other party receiving the parenting time on such holiday in odd-numbered years.

It is essential to carve out vacation parenting time in the parenting plan as well. It is typical to allocate a reasonable amount of time to each parent for a vacation with the children. A default provision as to who gets preference in what year is necessary to avoid conflict when both parties seek to exercise the same week(s) for vacation parenting time.

Finally, below is a non-exhaustive list of other miscellaneous provisions that should be considered when preparing a parenting plan:

    • Dispute Resolution Provisions;
    • Right of First Refusal;
    • Transportation including pick up times and locations;
    • Communication between the parties (telephone, text, Talking Parents, Our Family Wizard, etc.);
    • Communication between the children and the parties;
    • Extended family members;
    • Non-Disparagement Clause;
    • Make-up/missed parenting time; and,
    • Relocation/jurisdiction provisions.

Planning a mutually agreeable parenting plan allows you and the other parent to include provisions that would not otherwise be included in a parenting plan drafted by a judge. Contact the attorneys at Griffiths Law to help you navigate these parenting matters and put together a parenting plan that best serves your specific family’s needs.

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