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Back to school concerns

Back to school concerns: Is a Colorado custody modification appropriate?

The summer vacation is already over and Colorado children are back to school. For divorced parents this brings up many questions. Some simple tips can help ease the transition.

Unfortunately, the start of school can lead to serious disagreements and a break down in a child custody arrangement. A change in circumstances, such as a move can create additional friction. In these cases, it may be necessary to seek a change in a child custody order.

Tips for school year planning

Getting on the same page through a calendaring system may ease the transition to the school year. A family calendar app can allow you to coordinate schedules with an ex-spouse. This can be helpful for arraigning weeknight visits and any changes required by your student’s schedule.

Contact the school to arrange for duplicate notifications and arrange to meet teachers. Parents who share joint legal custody also must cooperate in educational decisions.

Custodial parents usually pay for back-to-school clothing and supplies, unless there has been some other agreement. Some extra-curricular activities (i.e. hockey or travelling sports teams) can become very expensive. Sharing some of these costs may ensure a child can participate, but keep receipts to track expenses.

A change in circumstances or safety and development concerns

A move may make it impossible to continue a joint custody arrangement when a child starts school. Initial testing for school may indicate a child is struggling to meet developmental goals. This could indicate a learning disability or autism. If the custodial parent fails to take appropriate action to address the issue, this might necessitate a change in custody.
Worries about a child’s safety are often another reason to seek a custody modification. For example, Usher and his wife were recently in court on an emergency motion. Their son suffered serious injuries in a pool accident, which prompted the Mother to request temporary custody. The Judge denied the request finding that an aunt who was caring for the child was a capable caregiver even though the accident occurred.

In any request to modify an existing child custody order, the Colorado courts use the following analytical framework:

  • First, there is a presumption that existing orders should remain in effect for consistency;
  • Next, to overcome the presumption the person seeking the change must show evidence that the child is in danger or that a modification creates advantages that outweigh any harms; and
  • Lastly, the court needs to determine whether any change is in the child’s best interests.

If a change in circumstances makes your custody order unworkable, contact an experienced family attorney to discuss a modification. When worries about the safety of your child exist, you need to take immediate action. An attorney can assist with filing an emergency motion, if the circumstances require. In other cases, a trial may be necessary if the parent’s cannot reach an agreement.

Lynn Landis-Brown, P.C., represents clients in the Pikes Peak area, Front Range area, and Rocky Mountain area of Colorado, including Colorado Springs, Castle Rock, Monument, Woodmoor, Broadmoor, Manitou Springs, Fort Carson, Fountain, Cimarron Hills, Black Forest, Canon City, Woodland Park, Cripple Creek, Victor, Parker, Pueblo, Peterson Air Force Base, Schriever Air Force Base, Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station; United States Northern Command (NORTHCOM), Northern American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), United States Air Force Academy (USAFA), El Paso County, Teller County, Douglas County, Adams County, Elbert County and Fremont County.