If you are going through a divorce or other family law case in Colorado involving children, there will need to be an agreed-upon or court ordered parenting plan involved in the case.
Parenting plans can vary greatly in what they do and don’t include. Some parties work well together when co-parenting, and for these types of situations, it may be that a less specific plan that allows the parents more flexibility is what will work best for all involved.
In other cases, where parties don’t seem to be able to agree on certain things (or anything), a very specific plan that clearly outlines responsibilities in detail is what will work best.
At the end of the day, while plans can be very different, there are certain basic responsibilities that are normally allocated in a parenting plan. One of the most important of these is decision-making responsibility for major decisions involving the children.
Oftentimes, parties can agree on a parenting plan outside of court, either just by themselves or through their attorneys, and sometimes with the assistance of mediation. The most popular way for amicable parties to address decision-making within a parenting plan is just to have the parties have joint parental decision-making authority regarding their child or children. What this normally means is that the parents must jointly make all major decisions. This includes things like religious, medical, and educational decisions. Usually, all day to day smaller decisions are then just made by the party who is exercising parenting time at that time.
However, sometimes the parties don’t get along and have trouble reaching agreements, and one party believes that they should have sole decision-making regarding all or some issues. For times like this, if an agreement for sole decision-making is not reached, the Court may have to get involved and allocate decision-making responsibility for the parties.
In Colorado, C.R.S. 14-10-124 governs the allocation of decision-making responsibility, and states that the court, upon the motion of either party or its own motion, shall allocate the decision-making responsibilities between the parties based on the best interests of the child. In determining this, the court considers multiple factors, including, credible evidence of the ability of the parties to cooperate and to make decisions jointly; whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support that would indicate an ability as mutual decision makers to provide a positive and nourishing relationship with the child; and whether an allocation of mutual decision-making responsibility on any one or a number of issues will promote more frequent or continuing contact between the child and each of the parties.
However, while the initial allocation of decision-making responsibility is one thing, decision-making responsibility can also be later modified by the courts as circumstances change for the parties and the children. Courts look to more and different factors in deciding whether or not to modify than they do when deciding how to allocate decision-making responsibility in the first place, and the relevant standards may be different. If you are interested in learning more about decision-making responsibility in your family law, divorce, or child custody case, feel free to call us, TOWN & TOWN LLC, for a free consultation.