What to expect if you need to modify your parenting time (child custody) agreement in Colorado.
Sometimes, after a divorce has been finalized and custody has been decided, a parent may decide they want to modify the original court order in order to alter the amount of parenting time they get with their child or children. This could occur for a variety of reasons, perhaps because one of the parents is planning to relocate or one parent believes the other is endangering their children.
If you feel that your child custody arrangement is not serving the best interests of your child, then you will need to seek a modification from the court. Per Colorado law, the court that originally entered the custody order has the ability to decide whether or not parenting time should be modified. You will typically go back to the court that initially came to the custody arrangement to change it.
The court will always consider what is in the best interests of your child and put the child’s best interests first and above all else, so it’s important to know from the outset that the court is only likely to approve a modification of parenting time if the court deems it to be in the child’s best interests.
What Do I Have to Do to Modify My Parenting Time?
Before filing any motion, you have to confer, in good faith, with the other party. And depending on the last orders, you may have to attend mediation first. If you cannot agree on a resolution then you will typically need to file a motion or stipulation to modify or restrict parenting time.
Modifications of parenting time are time consuming and will not be decided immediately. Additionally, it is important to ensure you are planning to file such a motion at the right time and when you have sufficient evidence to support your requested modification. Strategy is key in any post-decree motion and it is critical you have the assistance of an experienced family law attorney to assist you in your pre-filing strategy, as well as filing the actual motion and advocating for your requested modification.
It’s important to note that if you choose to file to modify parenting time and parenting time does change, as a result, it may affect other issues like child support. So, while your goal may be to modify the amount of time you get with your child, doing so may cause other modifications to the original orders as well.
What Will the Court Consider?
The courts will consider a variety of factors when determining whether to modify the original parent time agreement. The best interests of the child or children are always the most important of those factors, but other possible factors include:
- Is the child currently being endangered, physically or emotionally, by one of the parents?
- Have both parents agreed to modify the current parent time arrangement, or is one of them contesting it?
- Is the child integrated into the family of the parent who wants to modify the order?
- What will the new agreement look like, and how will it affect each parent’s time with the child or children?
Do I Have to Go to Court?
Not necessarily. If you and the other parent have decided jointly to modify parenting time, then you do not have to go through the courts. However, you must file a Stipulation to modify parenting time, executed by both parents, if it is to be enforceable and adopted as a court order.
If you fail to file such a Stipulation, it means the court cannot and will not enforce the details of the new parent time arrangement, and will enforce the original order.
This could be risky, because if one parent decides not to abide by the new arrangement, they might not be held legally responsible for violating the modified child custody agreement.
It is critical you retain an experienced family law attorney to assist you in drafting and filing a Stipulation to modify parenting time to ensure the new agreement will be enforceable by the court and to prevent the other parent from filing against you to enforce the old order.
When Can I Modify Parent Time?
Under Colorado law, parents who wish to modify their current parent time arrangement so as to flip the primary parent of the child(ren) must wait until at least two years have elapsed since determination of a prior motion to modify the primary parent before they can request a new modification to flip the primary parent. Of course, if it’s an emergency situation, such as if the child is being physically or emotionally endangered by one of the parents, then the two-year rule would not apply. This restriction typically does not apply to motions to modify parenting time that do not request a flip in the primary parent.
You should be prepared for the modification process to take some time. The paperwork itself will take time to finalize, and it will take time for the court to come to a decision. If it’s an emergency situation, you can expect the court process to be expedited, but otherwise, it will take some time before the modification is approved or denied.
Restricting Parenting Time
When it comes to restricting parent time, the court will only consider doing this if the other parent is physically or emotionally endangering the child. If you want to restrict the other parent’s parent time because you believe they are endangering the child, you will need to be able to prove to the court why you believe that the current arrangement is a danger to the child’s welfare.
These motions can be difficult to prove, as you will only have a maximum of fourteen days to prepare for a hearing on such a motion. Therefore, it is important you speak with an experienced family law attorney prior to filing a motion to restrict parenting time.
Contact Halligan LLC
The Denver child custody attorneys at Halligan LLC have vast experience helping families navigate the legal process after a divorce has occurred. If you believe it is in the best interests of your child to modify the present custody agreement, then you need a knowledgeable and compassionate attorney in your corner to advise you on Colorado law and help you fight for your parenting time.
If you are in the Denver area and are seeking to modify your current parent time agreement, contact us today for a consultation. Call us at (720) 608-2361 or connect with us online. We’re here to help.