As a Colorado-based mediator, I get a lot of questions about modifying parenting time, or child custody. When parties divorce, they may get an initial custody order that outlines parenting time, but if circumstances change, the court can modify the order at any point.
And circumstances change frequently. The court has to find that A) there has been substantial change of circumstances affecting the welfare of the children and B) that modification is in the best interest of the children.
Below are several frequently asked questions I get about modification of parenting time in Colorado:
- Can parenting schedules be modified?
Absolutely. The process is relatively simple (at least on the surface): one parent files a motion with the court to modify parenting time. The other party responds to the motion. The court agrees. Of course, there are so many variables to this process and every case is different. However, if the child custody arrangement is no longer “in the best interests of the children”, you have a right to seek modification. Your job is to show that there has been a material change of circumstances and that a change in modification is in your child’s best interest.
- How do I change parenting time in Colorado?
The court has a lot of information on its website about how to go about doing this, including the forms that need to be filled out. Because of course there are forms to be filled out, including the Parenting Plan, Stipulation Regarding Parenting Time Modification, Sworn Financial Statements, Certificates of Compliance, and on and on…
Doing this DIY is possible, of course – many co-parents manage it. It is also possible to hire a mediator or attorneys to help you. The attorney route is going to be the most expensive, while a good mediator can help the parties talk through issues, fill out forms, prepare the child support worksheet, and so forth much more affordably.
Regardless of who does what, the first step is to file a Motion to Modify/Restrict Parenting Time (JDF 1406) with the court. Then things flow from there. To learn more, read the Court’s form on how to Modify Parenting Time here.
- Do I have to go to court to modify parenting time?
No – you don’t. If both parents agree to the changes, you don’t have to file motions with the court. You can co-parent in any way that suits your family, as long as both parties agree. And it’s in the best interest of the children. However, if you don’t file the changes with the court, those changes are not orders of the court and are therefore not enforceable by the court. That means that neither of you are under any legal obligation to abide by that modified parenting time. So there’s a big element of trust there.
Another important thing to bear in mind is that a parent can’t request a modification of parenting time within two years of filing a prior request. That’s an interesting point, because the needs of families often change more frequently than every two years. Children develop and have changing needs organically, as do parental circumstances. So if it works for your family and co-parent to modify without going through the court, it can be beneficial to have organic, non-court ordered changes.
- When do I need to go to court to modify parenting time?
There are reasons why you absolutely should go to court to modify parenting time and they all fall under the “substantial changes in circumstances” category – here are a few:
- Physical relocation: if one of the parents plans on moving out of town or state, that’s going to have a significant negative (or positive) effect on the child’s life. It’s also going to place a major burden on one (or both) of the parents to keep the current parenting schedule.
- One of the parents refuses to follow the parenting plan: If that’s not working for you, you might need to petition the court for a modification of parenting time. You’ll have to provide notice to the other parent that you’re doing that and present evidence to the court and it’s going to be more work than agreeing between the two of you out of court, that’s for sure!
- The child is in danger: Obviously this is a big one. If one of the parents is engaging in behavior that puts a child in harm’s way, the court could absolutely modify parenting time. Examples include substance abuse, emotional or physical or sexual abuse, or serious mental health concerns.
- How does parenting time affect child support?
Well, if parenting time is modified, it’s possible that the child support will need to be as well. The standard to modify child support in Colorado is that there has to be a “substantial and continuing” change in circumstances that results in at least 10% difference in the child support due. So a significant change in parenting time could result in a need (or desire) to modify child support: child support, in part, is calculated by the number of overnights a child spends with the parents. Other factors that could lead to a modification to child support could be a significant change in income, a child turning 19, or reduced day care costs.
If you have more questions about parenting time or child support, contact Open Space Mediation or book a free 30 minute consultation.
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