If you are the parent of a child or children under the age of 18, the court must enter orders regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities (formerly known as child custody) including parenting time and decision making.
Although the terms "custody" and "visitation” were used for decades, in 1998, the Colorado General Assembly revised the statutory language eliminating those terms and replacing them with the concept of parental responsibilities. Parental responsibilities include both parenting time and decision making.
The court must make provisions for parenting time in accordance with the best interests of the minor child or children. In determining the best interests of the child for purposes of parenting time, the court must consider certain relevant factors set forth in C.R.S. 14-10-124, including the following:
In fashioning a parenting plan, the court will make provisions for “regular”, “holiday” “vacation” and “summer” parenting time.
Regular Parenting Time involves the home where the child or children reside during the school year.
Holiday Parenting Time involves legal holidays including three day weekends such as
Vacation Parenting Time includes school vacations such as
Summer Parenting Time includes the summer break from school
Generally speaking, absent abusive circumstances, both parties have a right to a reasonable amount of parenting time with their children. It is very common for a court to award equal or nearly equal parenting time of older children. This customarily takes the form of week on /week off, 4-3-3-4, or 5-2-2-5. The amount of regular parenting time awarded each party necessarily considers the age and maturity of the children, the distance between the parties homes and the distance from each parent’s home to the schools.
If the children are infants or toddlers, it is still customary for them to reside with the primary care giver, especially if one of the parents has been a stay at home parent. As the child gets older, extended parenting time is given to the non-primary care giver, and overnights are slowly introduced.
Although gender bias does still exist, it has become less so as the “traditional” family structure has changed. As increasingly more women work, some men have assumed the role of the primary care giver and the courts will honor and respect that role.
** It is important to note that the statute expressly prohibits the court from presuming that one party is better able to make decisions because of that person’s sex.
Generally, the court may modify an order regarding parenting time whenever it would serve the best interests of the minor child. However, absent certain circumstances, the court may NOT substantially modify parenting time if it changes the parent with whom the child resides a majority of the time more than once every two years.
The court must allocate the decision-making responsibilities between the parties based on the best interests of the child. The court may allocate the decision making authority on an issue by issue basis to both parties mutually or solely to one party. The decision making which is allocated pertains to major decisions including:
To a lesser extent, the court may enter orders regarding:
Day to day decisions are left to the party with whom the children are exercising parenting time. Neither party gets to micromanage the ordinary decisions made by the other parent on a daily basis.
In determining the best interests of the child for the purposes of allocating decision making responsibility, in addition to considering the same factors as for parenting time set forth in C.R.S. 14-10-124, the court must also consider the following:
“Sole decision making" means that only one of the parents makes the major decisions regarding the health, education and general welfare of the child, including religious upbringing.
"Joint decision making " means that the parents make these major decisions together. If one parent were to ask for joint decision making but the other does not want it, the judge may or may not agree to joint decision making. The Courts favor joint decision making as that allows both parents to assume an active role in the upbringing of their children. In certain instances such as where there has been spousal abuse, the court cannot order joint decision making. The court also will not order joint decision making where there is credible evidence that the parties are unable to make joint decisions together.
If the parties are not able to make joint decisions, the court may award sole decision making in all areas to one of the parents or may divide the decision making and order that one parent make the decisions regarding education while the other parent makes the decisions regarding medical.
Decision making and parenting time are two separate and distinct concepts. If one parent is awarded sole decision making, that parent may NOT deny or withhold parenting time from the other parent. A parent has the right to parenting time regardless of whether or not they are empowered with decision making authority. Regardless of which parent has decision making or if the parties have joint decision making, the parent with whom the child or children are currently residing has the power to make the day to day decisions
Absent a finding of emotional impairment or physical endangerment, the court cannot modify decision making authority more than once every two years.
If the parents are divorcing, allocation of parental responsibilities becomes part of the divorce action. If the parents are not married, either party may file a separate action for allocation of parental responsibilities. If the parties are not married and paternity is in dispute, an action to determine paternity may be filed by either party.
If you are a father facing a critical custody battle, you can have an aggressive, experienced child custody lawyer based in Denver, Colorado, fighting for you. Sharon Liko is an attorney focused on representing men in child custody cases throughout the Denver area, including Douglas County, Arapahoe County, Jefferson County and the communities of Littleton, Englewood, Centennial, Castle Rock, Cherry Hills, Cherry Hills Village, Greenwood Village, Lakewood, Golden and Arvada. Sharon D. Liko, P.C. also represents clients throughout Colorado, and Ms. Liko is licensed to practice in Texas. Call Sharon D. Liko, P.C. today at (303) 534-4888 to set up a consultation.