Parenting Time Modification
The child custody and visitation order entered in a Colorado divorce case may have been workable for quite some time, but unexpected, unforeseen events are a part of life. Often, things change and the parenting time you had once thought was in your child’s best interests, is no longer in their best interests.
There could be a myriad number of circumstances since the last Court Order that could affect what you believe is in your child’s best interests. In some cases, you might be facing changes to your employment, financial situation, or living arrangements. Whether your reasons are personal or professional, you realize that the practical implications for your parenting plan are significant.
If there has been a change in circumstances where you believe a modification is in the children’s best interests, we can help. You will benefit tremendously by running the facts by a family law attorney at Pomper Price, LLC that specializes in modification of parenting time. Our team has decades of experience representing clients seeking to change their current visitation arrangement, so we can explain the different options for achieving your goals. Please contact our offices to schedule a consultation with a Colorado parenting time modification lawyer, and check out a few basics about the laws.
Modification of Parenting Time Under Colorado Law
State statutes regarding child visitation, also known as parenting time, anticipate that there may be changes after entry of a court order. Parents may experience adjustment to their work schedules or new situations that affect their personal needs. At times, the child’s circumstances may have changed, making the current parenting time arrangement not workable. Regardless of the specific underlying reasons, the court order that is currently in effect has the operation of law. There can be serious consequences for trying to alter it without court permission.
Any attempts at modification of parenting time must meet the requirements of Colorado Revised Statute, 14-10-129 (and its subcategories), which sets forth the legal burden you will need to show to meet your request for modification. There are two scenarios in most parenting time modification cases:
In many cases, the standard is simply best interests when requesting minor “tweaks” of parenting time, making parenting time equal, or when both parties start with equal parenting time and when one seeks to modify.
The statute sets forth the various factors a court must review when determining the child’s best interests for purposes of initial custody and visitation determinations. This analysis also applies to modifications that do NOT involve major changes. The factors include:
- The wishes of the parents
- The child’s wishes, if he or she is at a maturity level to communicate reasoned choices regarding parenting time
- The child’s relationship with parents and other individuals who impact the child’s best interests, such as siblings
- All parties’ mental and physical well-being
- The child’s adjustment to home and family life
- The geographic distance separating the parent’s homes
- How well parents can prioritize the needs of the child
- Each parent’s ability to encourage the child’s relationship with the other co-parent
- The past involvement of the parties and how they developed a system of values, commitment, and support
Modifying the Primary Parents and Other Major Changes
However, there are times when a parent will need to meet a higher legal burden to file a motion to modify parenting time. The Courts have ruled that if you are seeking to change the primary parent, the standard is higher. According to CRS 14-10-129(2), a court shall not modify a prior order that substantially changes the primary parent unless:
- The Parties agree
- The Child has been integrated into the moving party’s family with the consent of the other party
- The majority parent is seeking to relocate with the minor children
- The child’s present environment endangers the physical health or significantly impairs the child’s emotional development and the harm likely to be caused by a change in environment is outweighed by the advantage of a change to the child.
The attorneys at Pomper Price, LLC can help you navigate these legal hurdles with attorneys that care about you and your case.
Process and Procedures for Modifying Parenting Time
Every case is different, but there are two ways to go about changing parenting time in Colorado:
1. Stipulation to Modify Parenting Time: Just as it was an option when you went through initial custody determination, parents can agree on changes to visitation. Regardless of any other written contract, you need to enter the appropriate orders in court. Plus, the judge will need to review your stipulation to ensure that it meets the child’s best interests standard. Keep in mind that there are additional requirements when the change to parenting time also encompasses modifications to child support. The obligation may need to be adjusted when the paying parent spends more or less time after the modification.
2. Motion to Modify Parenting Time: When parents cannot agree, the one seeking modification must file an official request for the court to determine the issue. That parent must specify the proposed changes to the parenting schedule, along with an explanation of why the modification is necessary – i.e., why the changes serve the best interests of the child.
After someone files a motion to modify parenting time, the court will set a date for a contested hearing. This proceeding is similar to a trial, so you will have the opportunity to present arguments and evidence. The judge will make a decision after applying the law to the facts and assessing the factors of the child’s best interests standard.
While both of these procedures for altering parenting time seem as simple as filling out some forms, there are numerous complications in the process. Often, parents think they have reached an agreement to modify, but later find that they were not on the same page. Other parties might make critical mistakes or omissions, such as not provide sufficient proof that the change complies with the child’s best interests requirements.
Furthermore, there could also be different time requirements that need to pass before filing a motion to modify, so it is important to consult with an attorney at Pomper Price LLC. For instance, there is a 2-year limitation on filing a Motion to Modify Parenting Time when trying to change the primary parent- CRS 14-10-129 (1.5)
In other words, no party can seek such a substantial change to parenting time if the court already ruled on the subject, whether or not it was granted in the past action. There are some special considerations to note concerning this rule:
- A parent cannot file a motion within 2 years of prior ruling on a motion of this type absent an allegation of serious endangerment. Examples include factors that jeopardize the child’s physical health or significantly impair his or her emotional development.
- When seeking to modify parenting time that traces back to a divorce decree, the two-year rule does not apply. It only covers previously filed motions, not initial determinations.
Legal Help with Parenting Time Modifications
Our team is prepared to assist with all necessary tasks and court proceedings involved with modifying parenting time, and we represent parents on both sides of the modification issue. Even when you can agree with a co-parent, it is crucial to work with an attorney who can explain and protect your parental rights. If you do need to go to court, experienced legal counsel is critical. We will support your interests by:
- Advising you during negotiations for an agreed order
- Gathering crucial evidence
- Preparing motion and required notices
- Developing a strategy in support of your position, either pursuing or defending a modification to parenting time
- Representing you in court, including proposing arguments, presenting evidence and testimony, cross-examining witnesses, and introducing documents and exhibits
Schedule a Consultation with a Colorado Parenting Time Modification Lawyer
As you can see, there are many complicated laws and court proceedings involved when a parent seeks to make changes to visitation. If you need legal help with modifying parenting time, please contact Pomper Price, LLC to discuss your circumstances with one of our experienced attorneys.
You can reach us by calling 720-780-8288, or schedule a free, one-hour consultation to discuss your legal options. We can meet with you at our main offices serving the greater Denver area, but we are also available at satellite offices as far north as Fort Collins and down to Colorado Springs. You can also request virtual conversation at your convenience.