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Designing a Parenting Plan

In most Colorado divorces or separations, it is in the best interests of children to have frequent and continuing contact with both parents. Most experts agree that children do best when they have emotional support and involvement of both parents. Clarifying parenting time and decision making arrangements can provide stability for parents and children by establishing a regular schedule. This helps avoid misunderstandings and arguments later.

In Colorado, as a part of a dissolution of marriage or parental responsibility (formerly called “custody” case in Colorado), you will be required to submit a proposed parenting plan with the court. Sample forms are available on the state court website as JDF 1113, located at:

Parenting Plans in Colorado are agreements between parents as to how and who will make decisions regarding major decisions related to their child’s health, education and religion. Parenting plans also help parents clarify who parenting time will be shared between parents, which provides stability for both children and parents, and helps parents plan activities and holidays. Parenting plans can be as varied as the families they represent and are usually designed with the age and developmental needs of the children involved. The best parenting plans evolve and change as the children grow. The best parents understand that flexibility is key. In Colorado, many resources exist to help parents design a parenting plan that meets the needs of their family and children.

The Colorado State court website is a good place to start. The handbook “Connecting with Kids” available at the following link, provides helpful information and tips:

The Colorado State Court website also has a good form to use as a guide when deciding what to include in your parenting plan. Click on “JDF form 113 “Parenting plan at the following link:

Colorado courts are tasked with approving a parenting plan that meets the best interests of your children. Children at different ages and developmental levels have different needs. Parenting plans for a young infant, for example, are often different that than for a teenager.
In working on your parenting plan, it is best to try to stay focused on your children and what they need. Some of the factors that should be considered in establishing a parenting time schedule for your children includes:

The child’s age, reaction and tolerance to change and attachment to each parent; The child’s relationship to school, brothers and sisters, pets, and extended family and friends; The child’s established routine and schedule; Any special needs of the child; Each parent’s ability to care for the child ; The parent’s work schedule ; The transportation time that the child will have to spend being transported from homes to school; The ability of both parents to work together, communicate and cooperate.

To determine parenting time that is in the best interests of the child, the Colorado Court is also required to consider certain factors set forth in the statute, C.R.S. 14-10-124(1.5) which includes the following:

  1. The wishes of the child’s parents as to parenting time;
  2. The wishes of the child if he or she is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to the parenting time schedule;
  3. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents, his or her siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
  4. The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
  5. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability alone shall not be a basis to deny or restrict parenting time;
  6. The ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party;
  7. Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support;
  8. The physical proximity of the parties to each other as this relates to the practical considerations of parenting time;
  9. Whether one of the parties has been a perpetrator of child abuse or neglect under section 18-6-401, C.R.S., or under the law of any state, which factor shall be supported by credible evidence;
  10. Whether one of the parties has been a perpetrator of spouse abuse as defined in subsection (4) of this section, which factor shall be supported by credible evidence;
  11. The ability of each party to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs.
    In addition to setting a parenting time schedule, the Court is required to allocate decision making responsibility (called “legal custody” in some states) between the parents. The decision making applies to major issues, like you child’s education, medical decisions, religious upbringing and moving of residences. Minor decisions are generally made by the parent who has the child at the time.
    You may agree to mutual decision making or you may agree to allocate certain decisions to one parent or the other. Mutual decision making works best when both spouses are able to communicate with one another and work together.

In determining decision making in the best interest of the children of a divorce or legal separation in Colorado, the court must also consider the following:

  1. Credible evidence of the ability of the parties to cooperate and to make decisions jointly;
  2. Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support that would indicate an ability as mutual decision makers to provide a positive and nourishing relationship with the child;
  3. Whether an allocation of mutual decision-making responsibility on any one or a number of issues will promote more frequent or continuing contact between the child and each of the parties;
  4. Whether one of the parties has been a perpetrator of child abuse or neglect under section 18-6-401, C.R.S., or under the law of any state, which factor shall be supported by credible evidence. If the court makes a finding of fact that one of the parties has been a perpetrator of child abuse or neglect, then it shall not be in the best interests of the child to allocate mutual decision-making with respect to any issue over the objection of the other party or the legal representative of the child.
  5. Whether one of the parties has been a perpetrator of spouse abuse
    The Court is not to consider the following pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-124:

The court shall not consider conduct of a party that does not affect that party’s relationship to the child.
In determining parenting time or decision-making responsibilities, the court shall not presume that any person is better able to serve the best interests of the child because of that person’s sex.
A request by either party for genetic testing shall not prejudice the requesting party
If a party is absent or leaves home because of spouse abuse by the other party, such absence or leaving shall not be a factor in determining the best interests of the child. For the purpose of this factor “spouse abuse” means the proven threat of or infliction of physical pain or injury by a spouse or a party on the other party.
If parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, The court may order mediation, pursuant to section 13-22-311, C.R.S., to assist the parties in formulating or modifying a parenting plan or in implementing a parenting plan and may allocate the cost of said mediation between the parties.

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.