Each parent is entitled to parenting time, unless it would endanger the child’s physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional wellbeing. Assuming that the exception does not apply, how does a court determine an appropriate parenting time schedule? Colorado law outlines nine factors for the court to consider when allocating parenting time between the parties.
The Parents’ Wishes
This is fairly self-explanatory – the court will consider the desires of each parent for a parenting time schedule. However, this factor generally does not have a lot of weight, since each parent typically wants as much time with their child as possible.
The Child’s Wishes
Depending on the age of the child, the court will consider the child’s wishes. Once the child becomes a teenager, this factor becomes much more important to the court. Although the court may interview a child, this is infrequently done. Instead, the court usually appoints a third party (such as a CFI or PRE) to speak to the child.
Relationship Between the Child and Other Family Members
This factor looks at the people who are significantly involved with and important to the child. Examples can include parents, siblings, and grandparents. It can also involve third parties who live in the home (such as a roommate or significant other).
Adjustment of the Child to School, Home, and Community
This factor looks at the connection the child has to friends, school, and the neighborhood. Will the child be required to change schools if one parent is given majority parenting time? Are the child’s extracurricular activities still available if the child is moved? A court will also consider any special needs of the child that cannot be met if a change is made.
Physical and Mental Health of All Involved
The court will consider any physical or mental health limitations of the parents when ordering parenting time. The court will also consider any special needs of the child and the ability of the parents to meet those needs. A party may need to present expert testimony (from a doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist) to support their argument.
Ability to Encourage the Sharing of Love, Affection, and Contact
This is a very important fact for the courts. A judge wants to see evidence that each parent can encourage the child to have a relationship with the other parent. This can include evidence of a parent keeping the other parent informed about doctor’s appointments, school events, or the child’s general welfare. Additionally, it is imperative that you refrain from speaking negatively about the other parent to your child.
Past Pattern of Involvement with the Child
This includes evidence of which parent chose doctors, attended medical appointments, attended school events, disciplined the child, and primarily cared for the child.
Physical Proximity of the Parties
The distance between homes is important for the court to consider when determining how frequently the parties will exchange the child. If the parties must commute an hour for exchanges, longer periods of parenting time (potentially with exchanges on weekends) may be more practical.
Ability to Place Needs of the Child First
This factor considers the ability of the parent to recognize the child’s needs and adjust to those needs. For example, does one parent consistently leave the child with a babysitter? Certainly, a parent is entitled to make plans during their parenting item. However, constantly dropping the kids off with a relative or babysitter does not show that the parent has the child’s best interests at heart.
Do you have questions about the above factors? Call Katelyn to discuss.