What were once called custody and visitation, are now called allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time.
Parental responsibility (or decision making responsibility) is presumed to be joint unless the parents cannot communicate as define by the law. An inability to communicate must be serious and/or legally documented (criminal charges or arrests). For example, domestic violence (whether physical, emotional or financial) charges generally reflect serious or intractable communication problems. Parents in high conflict cases often grapple over years with issues related to allocation of parental responsibility and parenting time.
Parents may elect to retain a Child and Family Investigator or a Parental Responsibility Evaluator to investigate and make recommendations about a child’s best interests, allocation of parental responsibility and parenting time schedules. These professionals can be especially helpful in high conflict cases.
Parents may agree to use communication specialists called Parental Coordinator and/or Decision Maker. The roles of these specialists is to assist the parents to communicate about and reach periodic agreements to minor changes in their Parenting Plan. Parties may also give more authority for evaluation and modification of their Parenting Plans to mediators and arbitrators.
There is not defined age at which a child may choose which parent to live with. The child must be of “sufficient maturity to express an independent opinion”. But even then, the child’s opinion is only one of many factors the Court uses to determine the best interests of a child. See §14-10-124, Colorado Revised Statutes to read the factors the court must consider in determining the best interests of a child.
Parenting time schedules are as diverse as the families who make them. While many assume a 50/50 parenting schedule is the norm, the considerations for parenting time are much to variable to fit a precise formula. However, there are resources online which describe variety of parenting plans. For example, click here for this resource from Family Relations Law.
Each party is required to take a court-certified Parenting Class. Both parties don’t need to go to the same parenting class.