Strategically helping Colorado clients through divorce & custody cases

Articles Posted in Visitation Parenting Time

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license-wall-5-1445048-300x222By: Curtis Wiberg

In our mobile society, it is not an uncommon occurrence for parents to obtain custody orders in one state, and for both parents and the children to later reside in other states, soon after.  This can make resolution of subsequent conflicts involving parenting time (visitation) complicated.

Every state in the country has adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) to address these parenting time or custody issues that involve multiple states, which gives parents and courts predictability as these multi-state issues arise.

Generally speaking, the UCCJEA provides a series of guidelines such that only one state can have subject matter jurisdiction or authority to determine custody orders at a time.  This is known as the “home state”, and it is usually determined by the state where a minor child has resided for the most recent six continuous months prior to the initial court custody filing.  Once a state assumes home state jurisdiction, that home state has exclusive home state jurisdiction to modify custody orders until such time as both parents and the children no longer reside in the home state, or because the home state becomes an inconvenient forum and gives up it’s exclusive jurisdiction.   Interstate jurisdictional authorization for a court to establish, modify, or enforce a child custody order differs, depending on the circumstances. Continue reading

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running-girl-and-endless-green-meadows-1430721-300x200By: Jessica A. Bryant

There has been a recent push in Colorado by parents requesting a free range parenting law.  This type of law was recently passed in Utah (the first state to pass such a law).  The reasoning for such type of law is to provide some sort of clarity for parents that want to teach their children more independence without the risk of being charged with child abuse or neglect.  In Colorado, the child abuse/neglect laws are vague, which allows the Department of Human Services to exercise discretion in an investigation when deciding if something should be pursued as child abuse or neglect, or not.  For example, Colorado does not have a specific age as to when a child can be left home alone- it is simply judged on a reasonableness standard.  However, that same vagueness creates uncertainty for parents that want to allow their children freedom to exercise independence by walking home from school or riding their bike to the park, for example.  If passed, this type of law would have obvious effects on child abuse and neglect cases.  However, it could also have effects on Colorado divorce and custody cases.  Continue reading

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keep-an-eye-on-you-1-1461307-300x200By:  Sarah T. McCain

When emergencies, such as when the emotional and/or physical safety of the children is at risk, people generally turn to the court, asking for immediate protections, the primary one of which is supervised parenting time. There are many options when it comes to supervised parenting time and, in many cases, the best and only option will be using a facility. Traditionally, courts will first look to supervised visitation being done at a parenting time supervision facility. There are positives and negatives to using such a facility. Supervisors in these facilities are neutral individuals who take notes of what transpires at the visitation sessions, from the initial interactions to the moment where the non-supervised parent comes to pick up the minor child(dren). This can be beneficial in circumstances when allegations are being made of inappropriate statements to the children or allegations that the children are hesitant to be in the presence of the supervised parent. This neutral supervisor can be on the look-out and address any of those concerns. The supervisor can provide written reports for evidentiary purposes and can testify if necessary. Supervision centers generally charge an hourly rate, sometimes on a sliding scale. Continue reading

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kids-1575435By:  Curtis Wiberg

One provision many parents use when formulating a parenting plan is what is commonly known as a “Right of First Refusal.” Essentially what this provision requires of each parent is that when one parent is unable to exercise the parenting time that they have been awarded, that parent must contact the other parent to give the other parent the option of spending that time with the kids before the parent that is unable to exercise his or her parenting time can be allowed to make other arrangements for the care of the children (e.g.: relatives, babysitters, etc.).

Typically, the parties agree to have the provision apply for overnight parenting time. So, as an example, Mom gets called away on a business trip at the last minute that will keep her from watching her kids on the Monday and Tuesday overnight that week. With a right of first refusal provision, Mom would be required to contact Dad and ask him if he wanted those overnights. Only if Dad declines can Mom then contact a different caregiver to watch the children while she is away.  Though right of first refusal provisions are certainly still enforceable, subsequent to a 2007 Court of Appeals decision, it became much less common place for a court to order them absent an agreement between the parents. Continue reading

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magnifying-glass-1579149-300x226By: Sarah T. McCain

 

I recently sat around a dinner table with a variety of women in different situations. The one item all shared was that their young children were going to be outside of the home for a period of time. The circumstances varied, ranging from a first sleepover to going to stay at dad’s house for the weekend. However, one item was consistent in that all of the women were deeply curious as to what would go on during this time away and what would be said. In child custody (parental responsibilities) cases, this become even more of an issue, especially when you have concerns that the child(ren) are not being cared for appropriately or when you have concerns that parental alienation may be taking place in the form of the child(ren) hearing negative statements about you or your  home. Continue reading

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hand-in-hand-1-1444277-300x226By: Curtis Wiberg

Divorce and child custody cases can be emotionally traumatic events for an entire family, which can result in behaviors by parents that can affect children for a lifetime.  Family law courts in Colorado are cognizant of the lasting psychological scars a child custody case can leave on children, as well as the scars parents’ words and actions can have on them stemming from subtle or overt behaviors not even intended to damage the child by the parents.  One such behavior is the parentification of children (also known as “parentizing”), wherein a parent treats a child as an equal, confiding in a child with adult issues, using children for emotional support, and/or leaning on a child to assume a parental role for younger siblings.   In these cases, a parent might turn to the child to fulfill the parent’s emotional needs or sense of loss as a result of the marriage ending.   In other cases, a parent might burden the child with actual physical tasks, such as caring for that parent or siblings in on form or another.  In essence, the parent places adult emotional burdens and concepts onto the child. When parentification occurs, lines and boundaries get blurred and an enmeshment can exist which, though comforting to the parent seeking to soothe his or her emotional wounds, can negatively impact the child and his or her own identity and sense of self.   Continue reading

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child-custody-300x200By:  Sarah T. McCain

With the myriad of potential new client interactions I have engaged in over the last decade, one of the most often asked requests is “I want to change custody.”  But what does that really mean?  What does it look like?  Generally, people are referring to wanting to change the primary residence of their children from the other parent to themselves.  Denver child custody lawyers know that from a statutory standpoint, this is a feat easier said than done.   To change primary residential custody, circumstances must be just right.

Modifications of parenting time (visitation) and residence in Colorado are covered under Colorado Revised Statute, 14-10-129.   Subsection (2) deals with changes in residence of a child.   There are specific circumstances under which primary residence can be changed, the easiest of which being the parents agreeing to make the change.   If primary residence is changed via agreement it is advisable to memorialize the change via a written stipulation (agreement) filed with the court.   That stipulation should set forth specific terms.   If you are the parent giving up primary residence you have the opportunity to make sure you get orders as favorable as possible to you tied into your parenting time and perhaps child support.  You are making a huge concession giving up your primary residential status and, thus, have a certain degree of bargaining power.  If you are the parent who will be taking primary residential control of the child you should ask to put things into a stipulation memorializing the new arrangement.  If the other parent resists, don’t push.    Get the child into your home first and establish a track record, maybe even a month or two.  If by that point the other parent is still unwilling to sign off on an agreement you might start thinking about filing a motion to modify on your own. Continue reading

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US-Map-300x225By:  Curtis Wiberg

Every state has adopted what is known as the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). In cases where parents may reside in different states, this uniform act helps establish which state’s courts have jurisdiction to make determinations affecting the custody of the parties’ minor children.

Once one state’s jurisdiction has been established and custody orders have been entered, C.R.S. § 14-13-202 provides that that state shall have “exclusive, continuing jurisdiction,”  unless….    Generally, as long as one parent remains in the state where the initial custody proceeding occurred, that state shall retain jurisdiction to hear any future custody or visitation issues concerning the minor children.  This is a basic, core provision of the UCCJEA which, in some cases, becomes impractical.

Continue reading

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calendar-series-4-1192550By:  Sarah T. McCain

Do parenting time schedules have to be the same for two kids?  The simple answer is, “no.”  In recent months, numerous articles have highlighted the divorce of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.  Receiving specific attention are the allegations of altercations between Pitt and their oldest child of the six kids they share. This has seemingly (from a tabloid perspective) resulted in him seeing all of his children on a very infrequent basis, if he has seen them at all.   Not much of anything has been in the news regarding his relationships with his other kids.  Presuming that there is an issue between him and the eldest child, not of an abusive nature,  should his relationship with the remaining five children track on the same schedule as that of the elder child with whom there are problems?  No.  It is possible to have the children on differing schedules dependent on their needs and the relationship.  Of course Brad and Angelina are divorcing elsewhere, I believe California, not Colorado.   Regardless, their case can certainly be viewed through the lens of Colorado family law.

While a custody court is tasked with putting together a parenting plan in the best interests of the children, the court does not necessarily have to treat the children as a unit for parenting time purposes.  There is no one set, best parenting time schedule that is going to fit every family.  In families with two or more children, particularly of different ages, there is a chance that the children may have differing schedules with each parent.    This may be due to school or activities.  It could be due to relationship strains, or just normal development.  Perhaps the younger boy wants is ambivalent as to which parent he is with, while the 14 year old daughter feels like she needs more time with and influence from mom.   In such an instance, it may be in both kids’ best interest to have differing schedules.  If one of the kids in your household has different needs or a different relationship with the other parent, it is important to put that on the proverbial settlement table for discussion, or in front of the court, if need be.  Judges will certainly want to assess why kids might need differing schedules and the gravitational pull of the system, from a normalcy standpoint will generally be to have kids on the same schedule.  In instances in which there may be issues between one parent and a child necessitating a differing schedule from the other, it is likely a court will want any strains addressed through counseling.   At the same time, the court is generally not going to place the desire for uniformity of reality and a child’s individual needs.  I have litigated various cases over the years in which children might be on differing schedules.

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boy-at-park-1432810By:  Curtis Wiberg

In Part 1 of this article, I discussed some of the concerns that can arise related to exchanging children for court ordered visitation (parenting time).   This included some discussion regarding conflicts which can arise and ways to alleviate those conflicts with well written, detailed orders.  In this Part 2, I will continue the discussion by touching on additional exchange topics such as children not wanting to go with the other parent and the use of new significant others or family members for those exchanges.

As indicated in part one, the primary goal of any parenting time exchange expected by the court should be making sure the transfer of the child has as little impact on the child as possible.   This can generally be accomplished with parents either being committed to getting along in front of the child, or perhaps having no contact at all.

Sadly, some parents like the conflict, and use the parenting time exchange, including the drive to the exchange, to work a child into clinginess or a tantrum.  They might then point to the child’s upset at going with the other parent as “proof” that the other parent is unfit or a lesser parent. This is a form of parental alienation, and neither parent should use the parenting time exchange as a battleground to win your custody case. You are actually more likely to do more harm than good to your custody case if you do play games at exchanges and get called out on it. Continue reading