When a couple divorces and there are children involved, the courts do their best to keep the best interests of the children in mind. The judge works hard to create a parenting agreement that benefits everyone. If a lot of thought is not put into the plan, it will not be beneficial.
However, life changes. Children get older, and their needs change. Things may change for the parents as well. They may lose their job, suffer a medical issue, or decide to move. All these issues can lead to custody issues and a need for modification. If you are in need of a child custody modification, read on to learn more about the process.
Reasons for Child Custody Modification
You can modify child custody any time before the child turns 19 years old, as 19 (rather than 18) is the age of emancipation in Colorado. Here are some reasons for modifying child custody, parenting time, or decision-making:
- The child’s needs have changed.
- The child is in danger due to physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual abuse.
- A parent’s work situation has changed.
- A parent has become disabled and unable to care for the child.
- The non-custodial parent moved closer to the other parent.
- The child is older and wants to live with or spend more time with the non-custodial parent.
- One parent needs to relocate.
- One parent is being irresponsible (not getting the child to school on time, abusing alcohol in front of the child, etc.).
- One parent refuses to follow the child custody order.
Evidence You Will Need
In order to request a child custody modification, you will have to present evidence of any relevant changes in your family’s life. Some type of evidence you will need includes:
- A journal or notebook with notes about custody problems as they occurred
- Records showing that police or the court had to enforce custody orders
- Documents demonstrating a parent’s new work schedule or move
- Statements from doctors, teachers, caregivers, and other witnesses
- Medical, school, work, criminal, and other official records
- Photos, emails, texts, social media posts, and other unofficial records
- A report that shows actual parenting time compared to the scheduled time
Modifying Parenting Time
Parenting time can be modified in various forms:
- A general modification of parenting time is governed by the “best interest” standard. This requires a judge to find that changing the current visitation schedule is in a child’s best interest. This applies to requests asking to either increase or decrease a parent’s time with their child.
- A modification of parenting time that changes primary residential custody requires the court to find that a change in primary residence is needed because the child is in physical danger or at risk of emotional harm.
- A motion to relocate a child to a location that is a substantial distance away requires the court to look at various factors tied to the proposed move.
- Emergency motions to restrict parenting time can be filed in situations when a child is in immediate danger of physical or emotional harm in the care of the other parent. Courts take these motions seriously and generally put a high burden of proof on the parent filing the motion.
Changing Custody or Visitation
When you agree with the other parent on a minor change, such as changing visitation by a few hours, you do not need to get court approval. For major changes, though, you will need court approval.
Under Colorado law, the court that entered the original orders can decide whether to change visitation. In most cases, you will have to return to the original court to change the previous court order.
If you and the other parent cannot agree on this issue, you can file a Motion to Modify Parenting Time as well as an Order Re: Modification or Restriction of Parenting Time. Fill out these forms completely.
You can also fill out a Notice to Set to schedule the matter for a hearing. The clerk of the district court where you originally filed your case can tell you what courtroom to set it in and what phone number to use. When you have completed these forms, you must mail a copy of the forms to the other parent or their attorney.
Contact Us Today
Modifications of child custody and visitation can happen at any time. When the child’s best interests are threatened, parents are put in difficult positions.
The team at Tanis McGonegal can help you pursue a modification of parenting time or decision-making power or object to a possible modification. To schedule a consultation with our Colorado child custody modification lawyers, call (303) 465-4605 or fill out the online form.