Colorado Custody and Visitation Schedules
Your child custody and visitation schedule is important to you and to your child. Here's how to set up a Colorado visitation schedule.
You can create your own custody and visitation schedule (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 schedule, you can use the Custody X Change software.
Custody X Change is software that creates custody schedules, calendars, and professional parenting plan documents.
The State of Colorado's domestic relations laws can be found in the Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 14, Domestic Matters, and should be thoughtfully considered when creating a visitation schedule in Colorado.
As you review the law, you will find Colorado holds the "best interests of the child" as a paramount determinant when ruling on child custody cases. These "best interests" are clearly defined in Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 14, Section 124. Maintaining and protecting the best interests of the child should be your main objective as well.
By using the law as a guide and your family's own unique circumstances and your child's individual needs as cues, you should be able to make a visitation schedule that is fair and equitable to both parents and beneficial to your child.
In the 90's, the State of Colorado made changes to some of the language used in court cases in an effort to be more positive and family friendly. The definitions of these terms can be found in Title 14, Article 10, Section 103 (CRS 14-10-103):
- Parenting time: The word "visitation" was replaced with "parenting time". It refers to the time each parent has with their child away from the other parent.
- Parental responsibilities: The word "custody" was also changed. Custody is now called "parental responsibilities" and pertains to the rights and responsibilities of each parent in regard to the parenting and care giving responsibilities of their child.
You will need to become familiar with these terms in the Colorado Revised Statutes when creating your visitation schedule, and try to use them in place of their counterparts.
The State of Colorado prefers that parents share their parental responsibilities and parenting time in a manner that ensures the child has continuing and frequent contact with both parents (CRS 14-10-124 ) as long as it in the best interests of the child.
This does not necessarily mean that you have to divide the time with your child equally, but your child should have plenty of time to spend with and be nurtured by both of you.
If you cannot come to an agreement and/or the "facts" of the case are conflicting, the court will have to make a decision as to the care and custody of your child for you.
As long as the court feels it is necessary and it is in support of your child's best interests, there are a variety of ways a family court in the State of Colorado may gather information that can be used to make decisions in custody cases:
- The court may privately interview your child in chambers (CRS 14-10-126).
- The court may appoint an attorney to represent your child and his or her rights (CRS 14-10-116).
- The court may appoint a mental health professional to act as an evaluator (CRS 14-10-127) and submit reports to the court.
- The court may appoint an investigator to interview and research your family and submit the results of the investigation and any suggestions to the court (CRS 14-10-116.5).
Yes. Colorado courts actually prefer that parents reach their own agreement, rather than impose an order the court creates.
The less intrusive and best way to ensure the needs of your child are being met is to do whatever you can to come to a mutually agreeable visitation schedule with the other parent. It is not always easy to reach an agreement, but there are resources available to help you:
- Mediation. Mediation is usually the first alternative suggested to parents who cannot or will not agree on parenting issues. When you attend mediation, you will discuss your issues and try to make decisions with the help of an impartial mediator.
- Parenting classes. You may also elect to attend or be ordered to complete a parental education program (CRS 14-10-123.7).
- Counseling. You may want to try using a private counselor or even try working with your religious leader to try to work things out and reach an agreement.
Agreeing on a visitation schedule is the only way to guarantee the needs of your child are being adequately met. If you cannot reach an agreement, the court will impose an order for parenting time that it finds appropriate, which may not always be what is in the best interests of your child as the court is not privy to your unique family dynamic.
Visitation/Parenting Time schedules may vary according to the age of the child. For example, an infant will have substantially different parenting time needs than the needs of a teenager.
Here are some suggestions for possible schedules based on age:
- Infants up to 18 months:
- Every Saturday from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. with every Wednesday from 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and a daily pick up from day care where the baby will be returned to the other parent’s home.
- Every Saturday from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., (including an afternoon nap), and every Monday and Wednesday evening from 4:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. Occasional Saturday overnights can be added if the baby seems tolerant of the change.
- Toddlers 18 month to three years:
- Every Saturday from 10:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m. Sunday, with every Monday and Wednesday night from 4:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.
- Two weekdays with four hour increments, and every Friday from 1 p.m. until noon on Saturday.
- Preschoolers age 3-5 years:
- Two weekdays from 1:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m., with overnights every Thursday night, and every other weekend from Thursday at 1:00 p.m. until 2:00 p.m. on Sunday.
- Every Thursday from 5:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. on Saturday.
- School-aged children:
- Thursdays from 5:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. on Saturday.
- Wednesdays from 3:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. on Saturday with one parent, and then Saturdays from 5:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday with the other parent.
- Two consecutive weekdays with each parent, with alternating weekends with each parent.
- Teenage children:
- The same schedule as the school-aged child but with flexibility added to consider the various needs (work, school activities, and social life) of the teen.
Whether or not you decide to use a suggested schedule, modify one to support your needs, or create an entirely unique one, you will also need to include a comprehensive schedule for holidays and vacations.
Most parents alternate holidays but you may decide on whatever works best for the child. You may also insert provisions into the schedule that modifies the schedule to accommodate the needs of the child as he grows older.
If you create your visitation schedule in a way that maintains the best interests of your child, the court in the State of Colorado will usually keep it intact when making a ruling.
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.