Colorado Law Concerning Noncustodial Parent Rights
By Beverly Bird
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If you're a non-custodial parent, Colorado is a good place to live – assuming you were divorced there and a Colorado court ordered your custody arrangement. The state's code stresses frequent, meaningful and continuing contact between a child and both divorced parents, and it has revamped its legislation to remove the word "visitation" and replace it with "parenting time." The term acknowledges that time a non-custodial parent spends with his child isn't just "visiting," and that non-custodial parents have certain rights.
Colorado's statutes refer to the custodial parent as the "primary care parent." This means that the child spends more time in her home than with his other parent, but the other parent also has a right to time. Colorado courts tend to be generous with scheduling it. Some factors might cut back on overnight parenting time -- for example, when a child is very young or attending school near his other parent -- but Colorado judges will compensate for this by giving you additional daytime hours with your child instead.
Legal custody is different from physical custody; it determines which parent makes important decisions regarding the child. Colorado has changed the term for legal custody as well. The statutes now refer to it as "decision-making responsibility," and Colorado courts prefer that divorced parents share it jointly. Non-custodial parents typically aren't denied the right to contribute to important considerations regarding the child, like health care, schooling and religion. However, minor day-to-day decisions are typically made by whichever parent the child is with at the time. If the court doesn't order joint decision-making responsibility for some reason, such as if there's a history of domestic violence between parents, a non-custodial parent still has certain rights. Colorado grants both parents full access to school records, medical records and other important documents, regardless of custody.
Read More: Can Physical Custody Be Changed for Children When Parents Have Joint Legal Custody?
Your child's primary care parent does not have a unilateral right to decide where your child lives, and the parent can't move without your consent. Colorado law does not allow a parent to relocate with the children if the geographical distance is such that it would affect the amount of parenting time you have with your child. If you oppose such a move, your ex must petition the court for approval. If you're enjoying a lot of parenting time with your child, your ex probably won't get the court's approval, at least not without some very compelling reason for the move.
You have a right to involve the court if your ex routinely interferes with your parenting time as well. You can file a motion to enforce parenting time if you're not seeing your child according to the parenting time schedule in your decree. The state feels strongly about parenting time, so the court usually schedules these motions for hearings on an expedited basis. A judge can give you additional time with your child to make up for hours you've lost and might even make your ex-spouse pay your court costs or attorney's fees. In extreme cases, the court might order her to post a financial bond with the state. If she interferes with your parenting time again, she could lose the money. You can also file a petition for contempt of court if she repeatedly ignores the parenting time terms in your decree.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.