Child Custody and Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

When called upon to do so, family law courts in Colorado are tasked with the authority to allocate parental responsibilities between parents as to their children. These parental responsibilities include child custody, parenting time, and decision-making responsibility.

In Colorado, a proceeding concerning the allocation of parental responsibilities may be commenced when a parent files a petition for dissolution of marriage or legal separation with the court, or when a parent files a petition seeking the allocation of parental responsibilities with respect to a child or children. The party filing the petition is referred to as the petitioner, and the other, non-filing parent is then referred to as the respondent.

Upon the filing of one the above-mentioned petitions, an initial court date will often be set by the court. This is called an ISC, or initial status conference. Upon personal service of the petition and summons on the respondent, a temporary injunction goes into effect against both parties.

The general assembly has declared that children have certain rights in the determination of matters relating to parental responsibilities as well, including the right to have determinations based upon the their best interest, the right to be emotionally, mentally, and physically safe when in the care of either parent, and the right to reside in and visit in homes that are free from domestic violence and child abuse or neglect.

Additionally, pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-123.6, a party filing a petition is required to disclose to the court the existence of any prior temporary or permanent restraining orders or any emergency protection orders entered against either parent by any court withing two years prior to the filing of the proceeding.

Under C.R.S. 14-10-106, in connection with any petition that results in a decree of dissolution of marriage or legal separation, the court shall consider, approve, or allocate parental responsibilities with respect to any child of the marriage. Courts use a ‘best interest of the children’ standard in making determinations regarding parental responsibilities in divorce or separation proceedings, or in other proceedings in which there is no previous court order governing parental responsibilities.

For a potential modification of a previous court order governing parenting time, C.R.S. 14-10-129 governs much of a court’s decision-making process. Pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-129, courts may modify an order granting or denying parenting time rights whenever such a modification would be in the best interest of the child. However, there are a few important exceptions to this rule. One notable exception is that if a motion for a substantial modification of parenting time which also changes the party with whom the child resides a majority of the time has been ruled upon by a court within the last two years, whether or not the motion was granted, a subsequent motion for a substantial modification of parenting time may not be filed for two years after that court ruling, unless the child’s or children are endangered in their current environment. Under C.R.S. 14-10-131, the same two-year endangerment standard applies to modifications of custody or decision-making responsibility.

Additionally, courts have the power to appoint professionals called child and family investigators or parental responsibility evaluations whose role it is to perform investigations into cases to determine what is in the best interests of children.

These issues can be complicated and there are many factors to take into consideration. If you have questions about the allocation of parental responsibilities in a current or potential family law case, please feel free to contact us for a free consultation.  Our office has assisted many family members living in Highlands Ranch and the surrounding area for many years and counting.