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Effectively Navigating the Allocation of Parental Responsibilities: Parenting Time and Decision-Making Authority in Colorado

Colorado Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (child custody, visitation and decision-making authority) are frequently complicated and can lead to disputes. Regardless of the relationship between the parents, issues can arise. Resolving these disagreements often hinge on formulating strategies for effective co-parenting.

Understanding how to craft a mutually beneficial co-parenting plan requires certain steps. Since scheduling is sometimes problematic, both parents should be flexible with visitation, custody exchanges and other aspects of co-parenting. Even though the court might provide the parents with a calendar, being agreeable with going to a special event or a game on a day that is not part of the regular schedule can create goodwill.

Communication between the parents can help parents avoid putting the child in the middle of lingering animosity. If a child is tasked with giving a message to the other parent, there is a chance the message could be relayed incorrectly or place the child is a difficult position. Also, the child's well-being should come to the forefront, and the parents should discuss it directly. It may be via text or email for documentation purposes. Remaining unified when planning for the child is wise. That includes rules, discipline and scheduling to prevent conflict with different standards.

How do Colorado Family Law Courts Determine Legal Child Custody?

Although divorcing couples may want to minimize courtroom drama, the subject of child custody might be a sticking point. An attorney that focuses on divorce and child custody might have strategies for avoiding this deadlock.

Legally known as "allocation of parental responsibility" in Colorado, child custody determinations can typically be divided into two distinct parts: determining parenting time and the allocation of decision-making authority. Both issues are decided based on the best interests of the child.

Parents may not realize that the allocation of parental responsibilities: decision-making authority is not defined by where a child resides. Rather, this refers to which parent has the authority to make decisions about the child's fundamental needs, such as health and education, and it also encompasses a parenting plan and parenting time for each week, for vacations and for holidays.

Most family law judges recognize that both parents can contribute to a child's emotional and developmental needs. For that reason, both parents might have nearly equal parenting time with a child, even if only one of the parents has sole "decision-making authority" and responsibility.

An attorney can help parents negotiate through this process. A court's decision to award equal and joint decision-making authority might be influenced by how well divorcing parents communicate and can get along with each other. Joint decision-making authority requires both parents to agree on a child's fundamental needs, and a deadlock between parents ultimately only hurts a child. To avoid that possibility, a court might favor awarding sole decision-making to one parent, but still award joint physical custody in the parenting plan.

What are the Types of Allocation of Parental Responsibility: Decision-Making Authority arrangements in Colorado?

When examining the decision-making authority options, it is good to know what decisions the authority encompasses and know the difference sole versus joint authority. These terms are important because they are used to parse out parenting authority and responsibilities.

Major decisions include those about the child's life in areas of education, health care and religion. Some parents also include decisions for extracurricular activity enrollment in this list.

Typically, if one parent has sole decision-making authority, then that parent may need to consult with the other parent, but otherwise can make all decisions that affect the child's upbringing and wellbeing in areas concerning the child's education, health, and religion. Sole decision-making authority occurs in cases where there is abuse, difficulties in communication, or the parenting time and parenting plan lends itself to one parent also making the decisions.

When parents share joint decision-making authority, then all these major decisions are first communicated between the parties and a joint decision is made by the parties. Joint decision-making authority is a popular because the child benefits from having a relationship with both parents and having the benefit of both parents determine the outcome of major decisions. Additionally, it may be the case that the decisions were already made in the course of the child's life such as the selection of the child's pediatrician, dentist, school, church (if any or if each parent has his and her own), and activities.

Occasionally there is reason to have a "hybrid" division of the decision-making authority where each parent is awarded sole decision-making authority in one or two areas of the major decisions. This occurs when the parents have difficulty coming to agreement, a parent's occupation lends itself to being an expert in the area, or a parent has a strong desire to continue monitoring a specific area or funding it.

Because each situation is unique, the assignment of decision-making authority varies from family to family and does not always result and a completely equal split.

Though it may seem like an obvious consideration, as you decide what decision-making authority option to advocate for, be sure to think about what is in your child's best interest. Ideally, the option you choose should provide as few disruptions as possible to your child's life and allow time for the child to feel secure. The arrangement should also accommodate your child's needs based on their age, development and activities.

What Types of Parenting Plans are Best in Colorado?

One of the most challenging aspects of a Colorado divorce and the allocation of parental responsibilities is agreeing to a parenting plan. The best interests of the child are paramount. Although many configurations can be used, some are more effective than others.

Many experts suggest that splitting parenting time in half is preferable, though that is not always the case. That being said, there are multiple plans to effectuate a 50/50 parenting plan. Each has its benefits and dilemmas.

For an older child who has the capacity to go without seeing the other parent for an extended period of time a week with one parent and then a week with the other parent may be desired. This eliminates the need for transitions, though parents should consider the best day of the week for the transition day. Alternating which parent has parenting time each week can be problematic. Despite its simplicity, it can be too long for a child to miss the other parent's interactions and support. This can lead to detachment. Some children experience anxiety issues because of it. Not all parents are on good terms, and acrimony can spark tension. The full week apart makes phone calls and visits necessary for children to keep in touch with both parents, possibly sowing discord. Also, it might require the child to transition 'gear' for activities back and forth each week. Work schedules can be affected by an alternating week parenting plan as well. Parents might need to adjust their schedule, pay for childcare and have issues with arranging all that is necessary for those weeks. Age is a factor with an alternating schedule, and it may be more effective with an older child. With children younger than 12 years old, it can be complicated.

Parents and their children could benefit from other strategies. One example is a 2-2-3 schedule with a parent having two days, the other parent having two days, and then the child switching back to the first parent for three days (which is typically the weekend Friday through Sunday). A similar schedule is a 5-2-2-5 schedule with a parent having the same two weekdays every week (Monday and Tuesday), the other having the same two weekdays every week (Wednesday and Thursday), and alternating the weekends from Friday through Sunday.

When a parent is on-call, works nights, travels, or has a varying monthly schedule it requires the parents to be more flexible and to create a plan each month that equates to equal overnights. Though it is more complicated, an equal plan is typically feasible with the appropriate process and terms in place for the parties to follow to arrive at a 50/50 schedule.

A parenting schedule is just one aspect of a divorce that can be difficult to manage. For help with addressing custody and parenting time, it may be useful to have legal advice from a family law professional to prepare for every eventuality.

What Should I Include in a Parenting Plan?

As a Colorado parent, you want only what's best for your children. This is true especially when you and your spouse are facing divorce, which can be a tumultuous time for all involved. Fortunately, you can relieve some of the pressure associated with divorce by creating a solid parenting plan which lays out each parent's roles and responsibilities.

When it comes to the creation of a parenting plan, Parents suggests adding in terms that allow you to review a strong plan for stability and consistency. When both parties agree, it can be beneficial to have a plan for the parties to also remain flexible should unforeseen circumstances occur.

In limited circumstances, parents may contemplate including a "first right of refusal" clause and agreement in their parenting plan so that the parent needing an extended period of childcare inquires to the other parent for assistance before asking third parties. These agreements should include detailed terms before invoking the clause to avoid disputes and future problems. The court discourages the clauses without very specific agreement and details and cannot order a first right of refusal without a specific agreement from the parties to include the clause in the parenting plan. Parents should consult with an attorney if flexibility is needed in the parenting plan so that specific terms can be included to avoid the need for further interpretation and litigation.

Can Moving Out Affect Future Allocation of Parental Responsibilities?

The beginning process of separation or divorce typically follows a certain pattern. After attempts to reconcile, one or both parties may determine a separation or divorce is inevitable, and they tend to start taking the initial steps of separating while filing for the allocation of parental responsibilities or divorce. One of these first steps is usually for one parent to move out of the home. For couples with a child, a move from the home induces the need for parenting time arrangements by agreement or by court order.

When moving out of the joint home, if it is possible to remain in proximity to the residence, it can lend to an easier parenting arrangement based on commutes to/from school, work, and the other residence. Other times, moving to a temporary residence with friends or family can save money or can aid in fostering support from others to facilitate parenting plans. It is wise to provide the other parent information about the move, residence, and ideas for future parenting plans.

If an agreement is not reached for any one or more matters related to parenting, one or both parents may seek temporary orders. A family court can put orders in place to address issues like child support and the allocation of parenting responsibilities: parenting time and decision-making authority.

Temporary orders made of a monetary nature are often revisited before the divorce is final to include information received by the family court through the discovery process. Unlike child support and maintenance (spousal support or alimony), the allocation of parental responsibilities is always based on what is best for the child. Barring any major concerns brought to the family court's attention through the court process, the living arrangements maintained during the divorce process may not change much after the case is final.

Moving from the marital home may help save parties from an unpleasant situation, but it may also prompt the family court to make temporary orders that are difficult to change later. For example, if a parent moves from the marital home and agrees to have visitation on the weekends, and this arrangement seems to work for both spouses and their child, the family court may not see any reason to change it. Likewise, if one parent leaves the marital home and makes no initial effort to obtain temporary orders for parenting time, the family court may be more reluctant to hear pleas for alternative parenting time later.

The allocation of parental responsibilities are determined through the consideration of the child's best interest. For separating parents, requesting a temporary order that accurately reflects how they would like the permanent allocation of parental responsibilities to be, may help secure it in the future. As with all aspects of separation and divorce, temporary child parenting time orders may be more easily obtained with the help of an attorney.

Does Child Care Access Affect Colorado Child Custody Determinations?

After a divorce, each parent may need to take on additional work obligations that, in turn, necessitate daycare. At a minimum, the other parent's absence may create scheduling difficulties.

An attorney that focuses on divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities and support understands the interrelationship of these issues. For example, if one parent desires to be the primary caregiver, he or she may require a reduced or more flexible work schedule. To compensate for the reduction in income from working fewer hours, he or she may also need more child support from the other parent. Alternatively, when both parents share parenting time, each parent may find an increased need for daycare.

Notably, a Forbes survey regarding the best places to work indicates that the higher-ranking workplaces offered on-site daycare and acknowledged the importance of a work-life balance. For a working parent, both of these considerations can make a big difference.

Before making a child custody determination, a divorce court may inquire into many details about the home environment that each parent could provide. For that reason, the availability and quality of employer-sponsored daycare can greatly impact a court's decision.

An attorney who focuses on family law can explain the factors comprising the best interest of the child standard. An attorney can also review a parent's financial and social situation, offering advocacy to help obtain a parenting arrangement that is fair to the child and parent alike.

How Does a Legal Separation Affect the Allocation of Parental Responsibilities?

In Colorado, a couple has the option of filing for divorce or legal separation with children. Spouses typically are no longer financially responsible for each other after legal separation, save for any spousal support orders. Yet legally separated spouses cannot remarry until they divorce.

There are unique benefits of a legal separation. Since legally separated spouses are still married, despite living apart, they might be able to retain insurance or retirement benefits, as well as inheritance rights. Of course, the couple might agree to terminate these rights in their separation agreement. Otherwise, the separated spouse might remain a beneficiary or fiduciary in the other spouse's will, possibly even retaining joint ownership of property.

When children are involved, the inheritance rights that are preserved in legal separation might present a significant advantage. At the same time, a separation agreement can address many of the same issues as a divorce agreement.

At a minimum, a separation can buy a couple more time than a divorce. Whereas the court in a divorce proceeding will need to come to a final resolution, a legally separated couple does not need to have a permanent resolution. Indeed, the separation can be revoked, should the couple reconcile. Alternatively, a separated couple might also decide to file for divorce during the pendency of the initial action once they have had time to work through the difference between a legal separation and a divorce.

Effects of Marijuana Use in Colorado Allocation of Parental Responsibility Hearings

There are several reasons why a court case is needed to determine the allocation of parental responsibilities for a child. Separations and divorces often lead to contested hearings, as do other situations like questions of neglect or safety. Since one or both parents are sharing some aspect of their parenting, child custody cases are rarely easy.

In Colorado, there has been some concern expressed over parents who use marijuana, and these concerns have increased with the legalization of marijuana. Some parents try to use the other parents' use to prevent them from sharing in the allocation of parental responsibilities, but according to professionals involved in child custody affairs, marijuana usage does not necessarily have any affect the on allocation of parental responsibilities.

What is more important to judges and caseworkers with the Denver Human Services is whether the parent is able to care properly for their child. If a parent cannot prove that the other parent's usage of marijuana interferes with the parenting ability, then the chance of preventing that parent from having custody is not likely.

If, however, a parent can show that the using parent neglected the child, failed to take an active part in the child's life, endangered the child, or did not provide for the child, then they may be able to convince a judge or government agency to take action to prevent future harm to the child. For parents seeking allocation of parental responsibilities of their child, they may want to consult with an attorney for legal help and for further understanding of how the law views marijuana usage in child custody cases.

Does Helicopter Parenting Help in a Custody Case?

Utah recently passed a "free-range parenting" law that would eliminate penalties for parents who let kids act independently, provided the child is mature enough to engage in the activity and does not face unreasonable risk.

Examples include letting a child walk to school alone, go to the playground alone, or stay home without adult supervision for a short time. Specifically, the law amends the state's definition of child neglect to exempt these situations. Children cannot be removed from their parents for these activities, provided the children are otherwise cared for.

It is a reaction to the perceived notion that parents are over-parenting children. Across the country, parents have faced serious charges for doing things like going into a store while their children remain in the car for a few minutes.

This is not a parenting blog, and we are not giving you advice on how to raise your children. You know your children best. It can be hard to know when you are being too protective of your children and when you need to step in for their own safety. But it does raise a question: in a custody case, do courts prefer "helicopter" parents?

Despite common beliefs, courts do not prefer to grant primary parental responsibility to the mother. Instead, courts decide parental responsibility based on the best interests of the child. Colorado assumes that it is in the best interests of a child to have both parents involved in raising the child.

However, evidence of neglect would certainly be a consideration for the courts. In Colorado, which has no similar law to Utah's, a parent may very well have the decision to let young children walk to school on their own be a consideration when determining the allocation of parental responsibilities.

No two cases are alike. Parents who can work together can agree on a shared parental responsibility plan through mediation or arbitration and work out issues about supervision between themselves. In contested cases, the court will use a variety of evidence in deciding, which could include each parent's relationship with their child, any potentially dangerous situation the child could be in, and any other relevant factor.

It is not clear that "helicopter" parenting helps or hurts in the allocation of parental responsibilities. However, the court will certainly factor in the safety of the child when making custody decisions.

In Colorado, Are Mothers Automatically Awarded the Majority of Parenting Time and Decision-Making Authority?

While many people believe that mothers receive preferential treatment during custody disputes, there are no set rules in Colorado regarding which parent will automatically have the allocation of parental responsibilities. Indeed, Colorado courts' primary concern when determining the allocation of parental responsibilities is a child's best interests, not the gender of the parent.

In many cases, the court will award some type of shared allocation of parental responsibilities following a divorce or legal separation. While Colorado law recognizes that co-parenting arrangements are not always appropriate in every situation, it also expressly states that:

"In most circumstances, it is in the best interest of all parties to encourage frequent and continuing contact between each parent and the minor children. In order to effectuate this goal when appropriate, the general assembly urges parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child-rearing and to encourage the love, affection, and contact between the children and the parents."

So, to answer the question posed: No, mothers are not automatically awarded sole allocation of parental responsibilities during divorce. Indeed, Colorado law even encourages parents to establish the allocation of parental responsibility arrangements in which they both are involved.

With that being said, it could still be argued that, depending on the circumstances, one parent may still have the upper hand in a particular allocation of parental responsibility dispute. However, that doesn't mean the other parent doesn't have legal options, which is why they should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.

Does Mental Illness Play a Role in the Allocation of Parental Responsibility in Colorado?

When divorcing parents are being examined by the family court for the allocation of parental responsibility purposes, they may feel as though their decision making, privacy and intellect are being picked apart. If the mental health of one parent is in question, these feelings may be even more intense. And as much as the parent in question may feel violated by being scrutinized for their mental health, it is, unfortunately, the family court's right to consider all aspects of a parent's life when determining the allocation of parental responsibilities.

The family court determines the allocation of parental responsibility based on a child's best interests. Even though maximizing the time spent with each parent is generally in their best interest, any potential that either parent may negatively impact their child is taken into account.

Sometimes accusations of a mental illness are simply tactics used by one angry spouse to get to the other. When this happens, the family court is usually pretty good at identifying and disregarding slanderous and untrue allegations. However, occasionally a parent does have a history of mental illness or the other parent's concern is validated in some way. This may lead the family court to take a closer look at the situation if the facts support the need for such review.

The family court determines the allocation of parental responsibility on what is best for the child. When considering a child's best interests, a vast array of issues are taken into account. The physical and mental health of both parents is one of the issues weighed to make that determination.

When trying to prove or defend against what is believed to be a mental illness, parents can benefit by speaking to their attorneys first. Usually there are methods and protocols for these types of allocation of parental responsibility issues, especially when private medical records are needed or requested. Also, whether a mental evaluation is needed or a medical professional is willing to testify on a parent's behalf, a family law attorney will know what steps are necessary when dealing with these concerns.

Explaining the Parenting Time Arrangement with your Child

As the parent of a child with the allocation of parental responsibility awarded between the parents, a plethora of challenges may arise, regardless of the child's age. Even if you have older children, your divorce could affect them emotionally, and you may need to explain what is happening and how life will change. With younger children, this can be even more difficult, and it is vital to set aside enough time to go over any worries they have, especially regarding a parenting time arrangement.

Parenting time rulings could affect you and your child in several ways, whether you have been granted a majority of parenting time, will share 50/50 parenting time, or your child's other parent was awarded a majority of parenting time. Providing reassurance that both parents love the child just as much as before, and even soliciting the help of a child or family therapist is important.

While divorce can present difficulties for all family members, it is often possible to reduce tensions and work towards a more positive outcome. Our the allocation of parental responsibility page presents detailed material concerning this facet of family law that may be insightful for those involved in a custody dispute. You should not feel as if your situation is hopeless and simply give up, especially if there are certain legal options available to you.

International Child Custody Disputes

The allocation of parental responsibility and child custody hearings are usually tried in the city or county in which they are filed. For example, if a petitioner for the allocation of parental responsibility is filed in Denver, a court in Denver County will likely hear the case. In some situations, however, the question of where the case should be litigated is a contentious part of the dispute too. Some states and counties have different tendencies in dealing with child custody disputes than others, making it advantageous to file in one state or county versus another.

That may have been the case in a recent custody dispute in one state, which has international implications. The family lived in Hungary and recently moved to Romania, but the father did not file for divorce or custody in either of those countries. Instead, the father reportedly waited to make his filings until he and the twin boys for whom custody is being sought were in the U.S., because, he claimed, he was afraid he would not have seen his children for five years, when they become be legal adults, if he were to have filed in Hungary or Romania.

Although the father filed in the U.S., it is not guaranteed that is where the case will be tried. Before any progress can be made on who will have custody of the boys, a trial will first determine whether the case will be heard in the U.S., Hungary, or Romania.

It may be beneficial for anyone who is involved in a child custody battle, or who is considering filing for the allocation of parental responsibility or a modification, to consult with an attorney. An attorney who is familiar with the family laws in your area will be able to advise you of your options and answer any questions you may have.

What if the Allocation of Parental Responsibilities is Not Working?

If you and the other parent cannot agree on the allocation of parental responsibility arrangement, consider trying to resolve the dispute through mediation. Mediation involves the two disagreeing parties meeting with a neutral mediator who will try to facilitate the two parties coming to a resolution. This process can be a shorter and more cost-effective approach than litigation.

As valuable as this advice is, parental disputes are often unavoidable. When formulating, adjusting and following a parenting plan, legal help might be needed. Consulting with an experienced law firm about the allocation of parental responsibility may be helpful.

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