Colorado Parenting Plans and Custody Agreements
This article covers custody agreements in Colorado and gives guidelines on creating an effective parenting plan for Colorado courts.
You can write up your own parenting plan (on your own or with the other parent) or you can work with an attorney or legal professional and have them create it. If you don't want to pay the high cost of an attorney, and want to easily make your own agreement, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates professional parenting plan documents and parenting schedules.
The Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 14 - Domestic Matters contains the laws relating to domestic relations and matters concerning children. You should be familiar with these laws and keep them in mind when creating a parenting plan.
Title 14 of the Statutes contains extensive information. It contains the laws regarding child custody, parenting responsibilities, court procedures, and even includes definitions for the legal terms used by the court.
Utilizing the information found in the Colorado Revised Statutes when drafting a parenting plan that focuses on the best interests of your child will make your parenting plan more likely to be approved by the court.
The Colorado Revised Statutes includes terms that you will need to become familiar with when creating your parenting plan, as defined in (14-10-103):
- Parenting time refers to the time a parent has with the child away from the other parent. Prior to 1993, it was called "visitation". The term "visitation" is sometimes used, but the preferred term used by the courts is "parenting time".
- Parental responsibilities is the phrase used to describe matters pertaining to the "custody" of the child and the rights and responsibilities of each parent toward the child. The court adopted the term "parental responsibilities" in 1999 as an alternative to "custody" and any of the noun's variants, such as "custodial".
Section 14-10-124 of the Colorado Revised Statutes states that the law considers it to be in the best interest of the child for the child to have frequent and continuing contact with each parent.
In order for this to happen, the courts encourage parents to work out an agreement where they share the rights and responsibilities of rearing their child.
The State of Colorado encourages parents to share the rights and responsibilities of raising their child and to encourage and be supportive of the loving relationships and contact the child has with each of them.
As long as your case does not involve domestic violence or abuse, mutually agreeing upon a parenting plan is the ideal method in determining parenting time and parental responsibilities.
If you and the other parent are able to agree on the terms and conditions of the custody arrangements, the court will generally conclude that your plan is in the best interest of the child and accept it.
If you and the other parent are not able to agree, the court has the authority to mandate that you and the other parent attend parenting classes or go to mediation.
Sometimes parents are able to work out an agreement after that, and sometimes they still go to court to let the judge decide. If you go to court, the judge will determine what goes into your agreement. The court shall make this decision based on what is in the best interests of the child.
In cases of abuse or domestic violence, Colorado concedes it is not in the best interest of the child to be further exposed to any potential harm that may result from contact with such perpetrators.
In this situation, the courts may rule that an abusive or otherwise harmful parent may only have supervised parenting time, if any at all.
The Colorado Revised Statutes (14-10-124) clearly defines the factors the court considers when determining the child's best interests:
- The preferences of the child's parents as to parenting time.
- The preferences of the child provided the child is of a maturity level capable of stating an independent preference. (The court may interview the child privately, in chambers, with or without counsel, to ascertain the wishes of the child [CRS 14-10-126]).
- The nature of the relationships and interaction the child has with each parent, any siblings, and any other person who may have a significant effect on the child's best interests.
- The manner in which the child is adjusted to his or her home, school, and community.
- The physical and mental health of all parties involved. A disability alone shall not be used as a determining factor.
- The ability of each parent to foster and encourage a loving, affectionate, and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent.
- The past patterns of the parents and whether or not the history reflects a system of time commitment, values, and mutual support.
- The proximity of the parents' home to each other as it relates to practical parenting time plans.
- Any evidence that either parent has been a perpetrator of domestic violence or any evidence that either parent has been abusive or neglectful to the child.
- The capability of each parent to place the needs of the child above his or her own needs.
The court will use the factors deemed to reflect the best interests of the child to allocate parenting time, parental responsibilities, and decision-making responsibilities.
When parents are able to work together, even if it requires mediation, and come to an agreement on these matters, the court will typically accept the parenting plan submitted by the parents and allocate the responsibilities accordingly (CRS 14-10-124 ).
Otherwise, the court will formulate and implement its own plan.
A parenting plan in Colorado should encompass the laws and requirements of the State and also include at least the following elements:
- An agreement between the parties pertaining to parental responsibilities
- A basic parenting time schedule that reflects when the child will spend time with each parent on a regular and ongoing basis
- A parenting time schedule for holidays and vacations, including school and personal vacations
- A provision that allocates decision-making responsibilities and the rights of each parent
- A plan for resolving any potential disputes that may occur, such as attending family counseling or mediation
Parents may include any provisions they feel are important and necessary when writing the parenting plan.
Being thorough now ensures fewer problems will arise in the future, as the plan will serve as a pre-written "instruction manual" on shared parenting.
If you are able to be civil to each other for the sake of your child, you have more time to spend with your child as you will spend less time in conflict with the other parent, which serves the best interests of your child.
The top twenty cities in Colorado (by population, US Census Bureau, 2008) are: Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Lakewood, Fort Collins, Thornton, Arvada, Westminster, Pueblo, Centennial, Highlands Ranch, Boulder, Greeley, Longmont, Loveland, Broomfield, Grand Junction, Castle Rock, Parker, Commerce City.