Colorado family courts tend to want to avoid disrupting the status quo in a child’s life if at all possible, but unfortunately, modifications do need to be made periodically to parental responsibility orders.
It is important that a party seeking a modification of parental responsibility orders understand what is required before filing anything in court to ensure that the request is successful.
1. What Does It Mean To Modify Parental Responsibility?
In the State of Colorado, the term “parental responsibility” is synonymous with what many refer to as “custody.” Parental responsibility is actually divided into two parts: who makes the major decisions for the child and parenting time.
Decision making can be sole or joint, depending on the relationship and dynamics of the parents. Parenting time involves the amount of time each child spends with his or her parents.
A modification of parental responsibilities is a type of post-judgment or post-decree modification. Modifying parental responsibilities can mean several different things.
It can mean one of the parties wants to establish a parenting time schedule with the child if one never existed, or it can mean that one parent wants to change parenting time or decision making from one parent to the other.
It can also mean one parent wants to limit the parenting time that the other parent has with a child. Essentially all that matters is something in the original parental responsibilities order is seeking to be changed.
2. What Is Required To Modify Parental Responsibility?
If one of the parties to a family law matter wishes to modify either parenting time, decision making or both, that person must give the court evidence of the need for the modification for this request to alter the current parental responsibilities orders.
The court must be convinced that a marked change of circumstances exists such that it is now impossible for the parents to continue the current parental responsibility order.
The court must also then find that the proposed modification is in the best interests of the child or that the previous order is no longer in the child’s best interests.
Modifications are not easy orders to achieve, and sufficient evidence needs to be presented for the court to be convinced of both of these factors.
3. What Does The Court Consider In Modifications?
When faced with a parental responsibility modification request, the court will normally consider a series of actors, including:
• Both parents agree to the proposed modification;
• Whether the child has a close relationship with the family of the parent seeking the modification;
• A parenting time alternation has occurred;
• One parent has continually and routinely agreed to the other parent making individual decisions for the child;
• The current living situation endangers the child’s emotional or physical development; or
• Changing the child’s current environment outweighs the harm that would occur if the child remained where he or she currently lives.
The parent seeking the modification has the burden to prove these factors to the court, and this evidence is submitted at a final hearing. Witnesses will be sworn, and testimony will be heard.
Depending on the situation, the court may ask for the assistance of an expert or someone who can speak with the child and on the child’s behalf.
Depending on the child’s age, the court may also consider the child’s wishes when it comes to its final decision. However, while the child may have a say in where he or she wishes to live, the court will ultimately make the decision.
4. What Is In The Best Interest Of The Child?
When it comes to creating the initial order or in establishing any later orders, Colorado family courts always focus on the best interests of the child. Parents often use children as pawns in games between each other, and courts will not have tolerance for this type of behavior.
The court will look closely at the intentions of the parent seeking the modification but will look most closely at what ultimately is best for the child and not the parents.
5. Are There Limitations To Parental Responsibility Modification Requests?
Colorado laws do limit modification of parental responsibilities to some extent. A parent cannot file a motion to modify within two years after a previous motion to modify the majority parent has already been ruled on.
However, courts will make an exception if the child’s safety and well-being is in danger. These specific circumstances will need to be made clear to the court to be successful.
6. Is Attorney Assistance Needed?
Parental responsibility modifications are serious matters. Courts take a request to modify a previous order seriously and do not make modification absent significant evidence showing the need for the modification.
It is for this reason that it is almost always recommended that the parent seeking modification or the parent who has just received a request for modification contact an attorney to discuss his or her options.
Because of the evidence that needs to be presented, it is definitely recommended that an attorney be hired to help the client ensure that the petition is successful.
Contact The Law Office Of Kelli J Malcolm Today
Parental responsibility matters are emotional and tough for all involved, and we are here to help you through the process. Call the Law Offices of Kelli J Malcolm today for your free 30 minute phone consultation at 720-261-7287.