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What Is a Motion to Restrict Parenting Time?

 

A motion to restrict parenting time brought under C.R.S. § 14-10-129 is an emergency motion asking the court to prohibit all unsupervised parenting time with the children by the other parent for 14 days. This is an extreme child custody measure and should not be taken lightly. To show that such a restriction is necessary, the parent moving for the restriction must show imminent physical or emotional danger to the children. The form for filing such a motion can be found where Colorado keeps its domestic relations forms, here. For reference, here is what the actual statute says:

C.R.S. § 14-10-129 (4)

A motion to restrict parenting time or parental contact with a parent which alleges that the child is in imminent physical or emotional danger due to the parenting time or contact by the parent shall be heard and ruled upon by the court not later than fourteen days after the day of the filing of the motion. Any parenting time which occurs during such fourteen-day period after the filing of such a motion shall be supervised by an unrelated third party deemed suitable by the court or by a licensed mental health professional, as defined in section 14-10-127(1)(b). This subsection (4) shall not apply to any motion which is filed pursuant to subsection (3) of this section.
 

What Happens Right Away

 

If the Court grants the restriction, the other parent’s parenting time will be immediately restricted, and they will only be able to see the children under supervision by a third party. These motions are reserved for instances of abuse, whether physical or emotional, as well as neglect and domestic violence. Because of the severity of the remedy (taking the person’s children away almost entirely for two weeks), these motions should be used sparingly and only when necessary. Colorado courts have described the balance between protecting the children and protecting each parent’s constitutional rights:

In re Marriage of Slowinski

“The apparent object of section 14–10–129(4) is to balance the need to protect children from ‘imminent physical or emotional danger’ against the constitutional right of a parent to the care, custody, and control of his or her children.” 
 
See In re Marriage of Slowinski, 199 P.3d 48, 52 (Colo. App. 2008) (Read the actual case here). The law does not explain in any precise detail as to what “imminent” means in the statute. As a guide, if something severe does happen then, you should act as quickly as possible. Also, the law does not describe what the term “physical or emotional danger” is. How severe does the harm need to be? These questions need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and you would be well advised to consult with an attorney experienced in this area of law to determine how judges in your jurisdiction treat these factors.

 

What Happens Within 14 Days

Under Colorado law, a motion to restrict hearing must take place within 14 days of the restriction order. C.R.S. § 14-10-129(4); see also In re Marriage of Slowinski, 199 P.3d 48 (Colo. App. 2008). Indeed, if the hearing does not take place within this period, “the automatic sanction of supervised visitation terminates.” See Slowinski. At the hearing, the Court will decide whether to grant or deny the motion.

Grant or Deny Motion

• If the Court grants the motion, the supervised/restricted parenting time will continue, possibly under more- or less-restrictive terms.
 
• If the Court denies the motion, the supervised/restricted parenting time will end and parenting time will return to normal.
 
Each side will get a chance to present their case, usually for a very short amount of time (the hearing may be as short as 1.5 hours). The Court will hear evidence about the danger presented to the children as well as defenses. Often, the parties will each testify as well as third parties with important information. This can include police officers, doctors, therapists, siblings, and possibly other people who live in the home such as an adult child. 

During the 14-day period, the parties can agree to continue the hearing or settle the restriction. This typically involves a negotiation where the restricted party agrees to certain restrictions on their parenting time in exchange for the withdrawal of the motion itself. Depending on the circumstances, settling a motion to restrict may be in your best interest. However, in other circumstances, challenging it may be a better strategy. 

 

My Spouse Filed a Baseless Motion to Restrict Against Me – What do I do?

Under the statute, a motion to restrict cannot be used as a weapon to attack and disrupt a spouse’s life. The law is intended to protect children, not to be used as a tool for spite. Because of that, the statute provides that a party moving to restrict parenting time without a proper basis is subject to paying the defending party’s attorney fees and costs:

C.R.S. § 14-10-129 (5)

“If the court finds that the filing of a motion under subsection (4) of this section was substantially frivolous, substantially groundless, or substantially vexatious, the court shall require the moving party to pay the reasonable and necessary attorney fees and costs of the other party.”

If you feel that a baseless motion to restrict has been filed against you, contact an attorney as soon as possible.

The strategy in defending such an action is to get prepared as fast as possible, win the restriction hearing, and then ask for attorney fees and costs against the filing party. Be warned, however, that you will need an outstanding attorney to prepare and win a hearing like this on such short notice.

Learn more about the divorce process generally in Griffiths Law’s Colorado Guide to Divorce.

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