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Understanding Parental Responsibilities in Colorado

Learn about the allocation of parental responsibilities in Colorado

Although the term custody is often used, in Colorado, custody is known as allocation of parental responsibilities (APR). Parental responsibility laws are used when parents or guardians file an APR case, which will help to determine the amount of parenting time that each parent has with a child if the parents/guardians do not live together and how decisions are made.

When one parent files a case on their own, they are called the petitioner and the other parent is the respondent. If both of the parents file the case together, they are known as the petitioner and co-petitioner.

Agreeing to a Parenting Plan Is the Best Option

In the best of circumstances, the parties to the case will work together to develop a parenting plan that works best for the children and the parties. They will agree upon the amount of time they get to spend with the children including the specifics of exchange times, days for regular time, who has the children on holidays, etc.

The process of developing a parenting plan that is agreeable to everyone can be extensive. When the parties still get along with one another or can put aside their differences for the sake of the children, it is possible to develop a plan that works for everyone. In some cases, working with a third party can make the process easier. It helps to alleviate some of the tension, and it can ensure things are done as amicably as possible.

The Court May Need to Become Involved

However, we all know that many times, parties simply can’t agree. This often leads to fierce arguments that are counterproductive and could potentially do more harm to the children than good.

If the parties are unable to agree, the courts will make decisions on how time is allocated to each of the parties based on the best interests of the child and determine how the parties will make major decisions for the children. In some cases, this might mean allocating an equal amount of time between the parents and in some cases it might not. Ideally, Courts like to see that the children are spending time with each of the parties. However, there could be circumstances that affect this decision.

For example, some situations may require that another adult must supervise parenting time for one, or even both, of the parents. Usually, this involves some pretty extreme circumstances that pose a dangerous situation to the children.

Cases Are Often Complex

As mentioned, one of the other elements of APR deals with who can make major decisions for the child. This might include where they are being schooled, their religion, extracurricular activities, and health care. When parents aren’t able to agree on these decisions, the court will determine how decisions are made. Both of the parents must then follow this ruling.

Typically, the child will need to have lived in Colorado for at least six months (or from birth if less than six months) before a case can be filed. In some cases, custody options can still be available for children who have lived there for less than six months. It is imperative to speak with a family attorney about how to proceed.

Unfortunately, many cases involve abuse. This could be intimate partner abuse happening between the parents, or it could be abuse directed toward the children. Those involved in these cases may face safety issues during the custody case. It is essential to encourage victims to have a safety plan in place. These types of cases should generally be experts well equipped to assist the victims, as there may need to be certain safety protocols put into place when the abusive parent is with the children, picks them up, drops them off, etc.

What Does Post-Decree Mean?

Post-decree means the initial case is finalized and there are additional matters that have come up. For example, a parent might later ask the court to change an order or enforce it if the other parent isn’t following the law. This can be just as complex and potentially just as time-consuming.

Work with a Family Attorney

You love your children and want what’s best for them. APR cases can be very complex matters. There is a lot at stake with a custody case, and you can’t afford to do it wrong. You also can’t always trust the other parent to be honest and follow the terms of whatever plan you put together on your own. Therefore, the best course of action is to work with a reputable family law attorney who has experience in this field.

Even when you have what feels like a simple case that will be easy to resolve yourself, it’s not worth the risk to miss something that then pops up as a serious issue later. Take the time to find a family law attorney who understands and is familiar with the legal custody process in Colorado, so you can get the outcome you and your children deserve the first time. 

The legal experts at Colorado Legal Group are available to help you understand and determine parental responsibilities in Colorado. Contact us today at  720.784.5607 or submit a free case evaluation.