Parental Responsibilities

What are parenting time and decision making under Colorado law?

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so this is what I like to call the um

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the fake news uh terms of of custody or

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parenting time there are a lot of

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interchangeable terms that are used in

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Colorado we use the term allocation of

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Parental responsibilities which is a

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mouthful so we call it a PR what APR

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means is that the court will allocate

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parenting time to each parent based on

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the number of overnights that that

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parent will exercise with the child

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looking at the I guess there are about

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12 I believe factors under the best

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interest of the child factors that the

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court takes into consideration when

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allocating parenting time to each parent

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so the term custody kind of asserts that

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one parent has you know primary custody

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of a child but the way that we see it in

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Colorado is just really based on the

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exercise of overnights which if that’s

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equal then that’s equal but in some

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circumstances that could mean a parent

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is the primary parent because they

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exercise more parenting time but by wave

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overnights decision making is

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interesting this is probably one of the

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other areas that a lot of people either

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overthink or kind of underestimate uh as

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to what types of decisions that they’re

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making about their kids so for example

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major decisions such as Medical Care

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religious upbringing education mental

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health dental those are the major

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decisions that parents usually are

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required kind of mostly by default to

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make together jointly in Colorado the

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court can allocate decision-making

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authority to one parent meaning they

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would have sole decision-making

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Authority and that would allow that

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parent to make those decisions without

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consulting the other parent when you

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exercise joint decision making you both

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are required to make those decisions

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jointly if you can’t reach an agreement

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then sometimes that may require you to

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go to the court or there are other

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avenues such as parenting coordinators

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and decision makers that the court can

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design need authority to help you make

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those decisions But ultimately the court

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will allocate decision-making Authority

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also based on a number of factors

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including what’s in the best centers of

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the children

From Chelsea’s interview for the Masters of Family Law series on ReelLawyers.com.

Custody, referred to as the “allocation of parental responsibilities” (APR) in Colorado, is determined according to the best interests of the child on a case-by-case basis. The same laws apply regardless of the marital status or genders of a child’s parents. While the statutory factors judges consider are consistent from case to case, no one formula is applied. As in many areas of family law, judges have broad discretion to decide what is in a child’s best interests, though they often rely on court-appointed experts to assist them. The Court must respect the fundamental rights of legal parents to the care, custody and control of their children as granted by the U.S. Constitution.

Parenting Time and Decision Making

Colorado law distinguishes between parenting time, formerly physical custody, and decision-making authority, formerly legal custody. Decision-making in turn is further broken down into medical, educational, religious, and extracurricular decision-making. While many of the factors courts must consider in determining parenting time apply to decision-making, they are distinct and differ in some respects. For example, a parent may have equal parenting time and joint medical decision-making with the other parent even though the other parent exercises sole educational decision-making.

CFIs and PREs

Given the difficulty of proving or disproving child-related claims in court, judges depend heavily on neutral, third-party experts. These include Child Family Investigators (CFIs), who are not required to be licensed mental-health providers, and Parental Responsibility Evaluators (PREs), who are so required and can perform psychological testing and drug/alcohol evaluations. The reports issued by these experts walk through the best interests factors just as judges do in making parenting time and decision-making recommendations to the court.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence or child abuse by one parent creates a presumption that joint decision-making should not be awarded over the victim parent’s objection, though in cases of domestic violence, the presumption can be overcome by credible evidence that the parties are able to cooperate and make joint decisions in a safe way for the victim. Family law courts can make findings that domestic violence and abuse occurred even if the incident did not result in a criminal conviction. When addressing serious issues like violence, drug/alcohol dependence, and severe mental health issues, parents may find themselves in a step-up parenting plan, where for example their parenting time starts without overnights and under supervision and is gradually increased over time as they attain certain milestones, such as monitored sobriety and mental health treatment. Conversely, a parent may be subject to an emergency motion to restrict his or her parenting time if such behavior arises; even if a motion to restrict parenting time is not ultimately sustained, parents are automatically restricted from all but supervised parenting time with their children for up to two weeks after such a motion is filed until the allegations in the motion can be addressed by the court.

Stepparents, Grandparents and Unrelated Caregivers

Parenting time and decision-making are further complicated when third parties, such as former stepparents, grandparents, or unrelated caretakers request parenting time or decision-making authority with children. While the law on APR provides a path for non-parents to be allocated parenting time, such cases require a high evidentiary burden given the Constitutional weight given to decisions made by the child’s legal parents, including with whom their children spend their time.

A skilled custody attorney can help your family navigate the often complex and surprising world of APR in Colorado. The attorneys at Wells Family Law are child-centered and passionate when the future of your children is placed in their hands.

The attorneys at Wells Family Law are experienced in collaboration as well as in litigation, because we believe that a respectful process and amicable settlement is appropriate for families. Ask the Collaboratively-trained attorneys at Wells Family Law whether Collaborative Divorce may be a good solution for your family.