Parental Visitation Rights in Colorado

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The State of Colorado has a firm stance that the involvement of both parents is beneficial to children’s development. Whenever possible, Colorado prefers both parents when creating parenting time schedules. In this post, we will discuss a few of the basic facts surrounding parenting visitation in Colorado. As we will see, Colorado employs unique terminology in this area and starts with a presumption of equal parenting time for each parent.

Changes to Colorado Terminology

In 1999, Colorado erased two key terms from its family law system: custody and visitation. To replace these terms, Colorado implemented the terms “parenting responsibilities” and “parenting time,” respectively. Although Colorado replaced its terminology in this way, there was no change to the meaning of these concepts, or to their application. In other words, these new terms function in the exact same way as the terms which preceded them.

Presumption of Equal Parenting Time

One of the most critical things readers should know about this topic is that Colorado courts start from the presumption that both parents should have equal parenting time. This doesn’t mean that equal parenting time is mandated or guaranteed whenever both parents express the desire to have equal parenting time. In many cases, parents end up with unequal parenting time for a variety of reasons. But, readers should know that courts start off with the preference for equal parenting time.

In a sense, this means that equal parenting time will likely be granted unless there is an adequate basis to rule otherwise. In reality, the circumstances often create a basis to split parenting time unevenly, however. Here is an incomplete list of reasons which may lead a Colorado court to divide parenting time unequally:

  • One parent actually expresses a preference or desire for less than equal time
  • One parent’s situation requires that less than equal time be granted (i.e. problems with substance abuse, domestic violence, etc.)
  • The parents live far enough apart that equal time is impractical
  • The child is old enough to express a reasonable desire for less than equal time
  • The child is young enough that equal time may not be desirable

Again, this is an incomplete list. Any one of these (or other) reasons may provide a basis to rule for unequal parenting time. Although, as mentioned, the starting position is that equal parenting time is generally in the best interests of the child.

Schedules for Local Parents

Colorado courts can develop parenting time schedules that match the needs and circumstances of a given situation. Courts are not restricted to a certain formula or prearranged system. However, if parents are both local, and have equal parenting time, courts tend to use certain routines. One routine is for parents to switch off spending time with the child every week. So, one parent will have contact with the child for one week, Monday through Sunday, and then the other parent will have contact the following week. Another routine is to alternate between having the child 2 days, with a 5 daybreak, and then having the child 5 days, with a 2 daybreak. In this way, the parenting time schedule is broken up evenly over a 28 day (or 4 weeks) period.

Schedules for Distant Parents

If one parent lives a substantial distance away from another parent, then it may not be practicable to have equal parenting time, as doing so would involve considerable inconvenience. In these situations, one parent will have primary parenting time and the other secondary parenting time. Again, courts can develop any schedule which suits the needs of the situation, but usually, the parent with secondary time will have the child for a substantial portion of the summer. Additionally, the distant parent will also have the child on certain holidays, and can also request contact on weekends.

Contact the Drake Law Firm for More Information

This is merely an overview of how parenting time (i.e. visitation) works in Colorado. There is quite a lot more to know. If you would like more information, please contact the Drake Law Firm today by calling (303) 261-8111.

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