Having to time with your child is a difficult outcome of a divorce with children. With emotions running high and stress levels at their peak, determining custody arrangements can be a contentious and arduous task. Robinson & Henry’s Colorado child custody attorneys can help.
We know you have many concerns right now. The legalities of your parenting time issue should not be one of them. Let us handle the legal details so you can focus on your child’s well-being.
Whether you’re just approaching divorce or you have a post-decree custody dispute, our experienced Colorado child custody lawyers are ready to fight for you at the negotiation table or in a court of law.
Robinson & Henry, P.C. offers free, confidential child custody consultations. Schedule online or at (303) 688-0944.
Preserving Parental Rights After Divorce
In decades past, courts almost always gave mothers custody preference, regardless of the child’s best interest. Today, most parents don’t have to be weekend parents.
By Colorado law, custody awards are a “gender neutral.” That means courts consider the best interest of the child, not the gender of the parent when determining custody arrangements.
Barring a history of abuse or neglect, judges prefer to see parents enjoy equal time with their children, which they feel is in the best interest of the child.
You may be divorcing your spouse, but you’re not divorcing your children. You have rights, and Robinson & Henry wants to help preserve them.
Creating a Parenting Time Plan
When a couple with children divorces, the courts encourage them to develop their own custody arrangements called a Parenting Plan.
The court must receive a Parenting Plan before it grants the divorce. Most Parenting Plans are created during mediation. But this is not always the case.
Overall, the goal is for parents to design a visitation schedule they can both agree on. This objective can be hard to obtain without the help of a child custody attorney.
Get Legal Advice Before Discussions Go South
At Robinson & Henry, P.C., we understand the dynamics of a divorcing couple and its affect on Colorado child custody cases.
The two of you may approach the Parenting Plan believing you’re on the same page. Later you realize you’re in different books.
The most amicable splits can experience problems during parenting time negotiations. That’s why a skilled Colorado child custody attorney is your best asset during this vital time, especially if there is any hint of discord.
When you bring your Colorado child custody case to us, we will fight to ensure you receive the parenting time you legally deserve. Whether it’s during mediation or in court, we will be a staunch ally that advocates for your parental rights.
Reaching a Fair Arrangement
As noted, when parties cannot agree to a visitation schedule on their own, the couple heads to mediation. The parents are in separate rooms, and a mediator tries to help the parents come to an agreement.
It’s in your best interest to have your Colorado child custody lawyer with you during mediation. The mediator is a neutral party, not an advocate.
Your lawyer will discuss with you whether a proposed deal is in your best interests. A mediator does not do this.
Mediation can be successful in reversing a parenting time disagreement. Unfortunately, some couples will reach an impasse. When this occurs, each party can present its own parenting time plan or let the judge determine the case.
You improve your chances of reaching a fair deal and preserving precious time with your child when you have a Colorado child custody lawyer at the negotiation table.
How is Parenting Time Determined?
Parenting Plans cover two types of custody: legal and physical custody.
Legal custody refers to a parent’s right to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing, such as schooling, medical care, and religion. You’ll often see this referred to as “parental decision-making responsibilities.”
Physical custody refers to where the child lives. Physical custody is sometimes called parenting time.
The judge will consider a number of factors when they choose which parent will have physical and legal custody of a child. If it’s possible, parents will share physical and legal custody.
Factors the Court Considers
According to Colorado Revised Statute § 14-10-124, the court must consider the following factors when determining parenting time (physical custody):
- The wishes of the child’s parents
- The child’s wishes if he or she is sufficiently mature
- The child’s relationship with his or her parents, siblings, and other people of significance
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved (A disability can’t be a basis to deny or restrict parenting time)
- The ability of the parents to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party (Unless the court determines a party is acting to protect the child from witnessing domestic violence or from being a victim of child abuse, neglect, or domestic violence)
- Whether the parties’ previous involvement with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support
- The physical proximity of the parties to each other
- The ability of each party to place the child’s needs ahead of their own
When it’s time to allocate decision-making responsibilities (legal custody), the court must consider the factors listed above, as well as the following:
- Credible evidence the parties can cooperate and make joint decisions
- If past involvement indicates an ability as mutual decision makers to provide a positive and beneficial relationship with the child
- Whether mutual decision-making responsibilities will promote more frequent or continuing contact between the parents and child
In deciding whether to award parents joint legal custody, the judge wants to make sure the parents can cooperate, that the award will encourage healthy contact between the child and parents, and that neither parent is neglectful or abusive.
The court’s primary concern is always the best interest of the child.
Joint Child Custody
Joint custody doesn’t necessarily mean “equal” time. In Colorado, joint custody means both parents have a right to some physical and/or legal custody of the child. In other words, each parent has some say in decision-making and/or shared overnights with the child.
One example of joint custody that is not equal is when a child lives with one parent 70 percent of the time and spends only weekends, perhaps, with the other parent.
Let’s explore some joint custody scheduling examples.
Two popular 50-50 schedules are 5-2-2-5 and 3-4-4-3. This is a good alternative for younger kids who aren’t quite ready to be away from each parent a week at a time.
Here’s how it works: The child spends five days with dad; two days with mom; two days with dad; five days with mom. It’s the same idea for 3-4-4-3.
Parents on these schedules often share time during the weekdays and alternate weekends. This arrangement allows children to enjoy school days and free time with their parents.
The every other day schedule is not as common since it requires a lot of back and forth for the child, though it can work for some families.
Here’s where we get into parenting time that is not split down the middle, but parents still enjoy joint custody of their children.
One parent has 60 percent of the time with their child, while the other parent spends 40 percent of the time with them. The parenting time is unbalanced, but it’s not significant.
In this parenting time arrangement, the child will spend most of their time with one parent.
In contrast, the child almost exclusively live with one parent on the 80/20 arrangement. One parent sees their child only eight or nine days a month.
Colorado Child Custody Schedule Takeaway
Remember, these are examples of common joint custody arrangements. You can use these examples as a starting point to create a schedule that works best for your lives.
It’s also important to point out that what works for you and your elementary school age child may not be appropriate for your older middle schooler or teenager.
Finally, parenting time is an issue that is often revisited as your child’s needs and preferences change.
Other Parenting Time Considerations
In addition to how much time your child will spend with you, you’ll need to consider days that fall outside the normal routine, for instance, summer and school breaks, major and minor holidays, vacations, and birthdays.
In Colorado, parents must indicate on the Parenting Plan where the child will spend:
|Mother’s Day/weekend||Christmas Eve|
|Memorial Day/weekend||Christmas Day|
|Father’s Day/weekend||Week 1 of Winter Break|
|July Fourth||Week 2 of Winter Break|
|Labor Day/weekend||Children’s birthdays|
If parent’s don’t designate where the child will be on these holidays, the regular parenting schedule will apply to the holidays.
It’s not required that your child, for example, rotate Halloweens between parents. There are families that elect to leave some holidays to regular parenting time, while others plan out every holiday.
If your child is very young, you may consider laying out a specific holiday schedule so as not to miss out on family traditions, such trick-or-treat or the Easter bunny.
Parenting Time and Child Support
Parenting time is closely connected to how much child support you may receive or pay. In addition to both parents’ incomes, including monthly alimony payments, physical custody is factored in when child support is calculated.
How is Parenting Time Counted?
Courts measure parenting time in the number of overnights a child spends with each parent throughout the calendar year. For example, in a 50-50 parenting plan, one parent has the child for 183 overnights; the other parent has them for 182.
Violations of Court-Ordered Parenting Time
Parenting time violations come in many forms. Hard feelings can last for years after divorce, and sometimes an ex-spouse will use parenting time to seek revenge. Other times a parent becomes absent and fails to exercise their visitation with the kids.
Here are some examples of parenting time violations:
- Refuses to uphold visitation terms
- Disregards pick up and drop off times
- Attempts to alienate the child from the other parent
What to Do if There’s a Colorado Child Custody Violation
Document Violations – Keep a list of violations, including dates and details of what happened.
Acknowledge Violations – Contact the other party, preferably in writing, to address the violation(s). Take screenshots of your attempts to resolve the matter, as well as images of the other party’s responses. This is another way to keep track of the violations.
When to Contact a Colorado Child Custody Lawyer
If you’re attempts fall on deaf ears with no solutions in sight, it’s time to act. A Colorado child custody lawyer will review the violations and try to get at the heart of what’s causing the problems.
Are the violations out of spite? Are they due to an uninvolved parent?
Understanding the intricacies of your Colorado child custody case will help our experienced family law attorneys to advise you on what the best next steps should be, which may include going to court.
If you believe your child is in imminent danger, contact local police.
Enforcing Your Rightful Parenting Time
When a parent faces persistent court-ordered parenting time violations, they can get relief from a judge. Depending on the individual case, we may choose to file:
- A contempt for violation of a court order
- A motion for enforcement of a parenting plan
- A motion to modify the parenting plan
Courts take parenting time violations seriously. Judges have a number of measures to enforce parenting time and discourage future violations.
Colorado law allows the courts to:
- Impose new terms and conditions to the previous court order
- Modify the parenting plan
- Order the non-complying parent to take parental education classes at their expense
- Require parents to take part in counseling at the non-complying parent’s expense
- Order the violating parent to post bond or security to ensure future compliance
- Order makeup parenting time for the aggrieved parent
- Find the violating parent in contempt of court and impose a fine or jail time
- Impose a civil fine to the non-compliant parent for each incident of denied parenting time
- Order the violating parent to pay the aggrieved party’s attorneys fees, court costs, and other related expenses
Checklist: Maximize Your Parenting Time
Before you begin to discuss a formal Parenting Plan, review this checklist. One of our Colorado child custody attorneys can help you develop a Parenting Plan that makes sense for you and your child.
- Your Wishes – Realistically assess your life and schedule. Then, take a look at how it fits with your child’s life and schedule. Is there a lot of overlap? How will you manage scheduling conflicts?
- Your Child’s Wishes – If your child is mature enough, have an honest conversation with them about their preferences. Remember, your child’s best interest is most important.
- Your Child’s Relationships – List the relationships your child has with their family members: siblings, the other parent, close relatives.
- Your Child’s Potential Adjustment – Are you able to live in or near your current home? Will your child be able to stay in the same school? If not, how will you minimize their readjustment?
- Ability to Share Love with Your Child – List recent examples where you and your ex have shown your child love.
- Past Patterns of Involvement – Write down examples of how you’ve been involved in your child’s life. If you want to increase parenting time, provide ways you will be more involved.
- Your Physical Proximity to Your Child – Do you plan to move farther away than is reasonable for equal parenting time? If so, what amount of parenting time would you expect?
- Capacity to Put Your Child First – Give examples of sacrifices you have made to better your child’s life.
You can download our Colorado Parenting Time Checklist.
Assertive Colorado Child Custody Attorneys Ready to Fight for You
Colorado child custody cases are emotional and complex. You don’t have to face this issue alone. Let Robinson & Henry’s experienced and innovative family law attorneys help you build a strong case.
You and your children deserve stability and happiness. Our attorneys will vigorously strive to reach a resolution that preserves your Colorado child custody rights.
Robinson & Henry, P.C. offers no-cost initial consultations. Call (303) 688-0944 to schedule an appointment with one of our Colorado child custody attorneys.