Parenting Time and Decision-Making
The State of Colorado, by statute, eliminated the phrase "child custody." As such, Colorado no longer uses the terms joint custody or sole custody. Instead, there are two issues the court will decide, one is parenting time and the other is decision-making responsibility.
The family courts use a variety of factors to determine the parenting time schedule the parties will follow, and to determine who will make major decisions regarding the child(ren).
Common questions regarding parental responsibilities:
Q: I have heard that the child's mother usually gets primary parental responsibility, is this true?
A: While there certainly used to be a time when the mother of the child was granted sole custody with the father usually getting visitation rights, that is no longer the case in Colorado. Fathers have just as many rights (and responsibilities) to raising children as mothers do. A qualified family attorney can help guide fathers and mothers through the process and help craft a sustainable parenting plan for the child(ren).
Q: What is a parenting plan and how do I create one?
A: The parenting plan is, arguably, the most important document created by parents going through a divorce or allocation of parental responsibilities matter. The parenting plan outlines who makes decisions regarding the child(ren) and what those decisions entail. The plan also details the schedule the parents will follow for parenting time with the child(ren). There are many other items that the plan often addresses, including, but not limited to, child support, communication, travel, and expense allocation. A well-crafted parenting plan can eliminate the need for costly trips back to court to sort out a dispute. A qualified Colorado Family Law Attorney can ensure that the plan submitted to the court will be both approved and sustainable.
Q: If we have equal parenting time, does one parent still have to pay child support?
A: Child support is generally determined based on a statutory formula. Courts will look to, among other things, each parent's gross monthly income, how many overnights the child spends with each parent, and child related costs such as medical insurance and child care, when determining the appropriate amount of child support.
Q: What if we cannot agree on a parenting plan?
A: If the parties cannot agree on a parenting plan, the court will have to make the decision for the parents. The court will look at multiple factors in determining the parenting plan that is in the best interests of the child(ren). Having competent legal counsel will ensure that the relevant factors are presented to the court so that the judge can formulate an appropriate parenting plan.
Q: What is the difference between parenting time and decision-making?
A: In Colorado, the courts distinguish between parenting time and each parent's role in making major decisions with respect to the child(ren)'s upbringing. Parenting time is often shared between the parents as is major decision-making. However, there are a variety of reasons why one parent may receive more than 50% of the parenting time or why one parent may receive sole decision-making. Some of the factors the court looks at include the child's attachment to one parent, school schedules, the age of the child(ren), and the physical distance between the parents.
There are many factors that can go into a case involving the allocation of parental responsibilities. You should seek competent legal counsel to ensure that your rights as a parent are adequately protected.