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3 Ways To Modify A Child Custody Agreement In Colorado

#1 Change by Agreement

Sometimes it is inevitable that parents alter their agreed upon child custody agreements.

In Colorado, you can change child custody in a couple of different ways. One way is by agreement. As children grow older, a custody agreement can become outdated and out of sync with school activities. Sometimes parents need to make changes that fit more with where they are in life, and how much time children want and need with each parent.

Many couples are able to make custody agreement changes on their own without a mediator or court. This requires the couple to draw up a stipulation, or an agreement, that would be signed by both parties. The signing of the stipulation would modify the child custody agreement. They would then send the stipulation to the court where it would become an order of the court. This is a very inexpensive thing way parents can modify their agreement, if parties are able to communicate and relations between the parents is congenial. An attorney’s role would simply be to make sure it was drafted correctly.

#2 Motion To The Court For Modification

However, parents are not always going to see eye to eye on how their children would be best served by a parenting schedule. The second way to modify a child custody agreement in Colorado is to file a motion with the court for modification. After you’ve been divorced, and you have your child custody orders, modifying the order later is certainly an option. Generally, however, parents need a substantial change in circumstances to warrant a modification of their child custody agreement . I  recommend you don’t try to modify your child custody agreement  unless an event has occurred resulting in a substantial change in circumstances. Typically speaking, you want to seek modification if  the custody arrangement has  been in place for a while and there was a good reason to modify.

When filing a modification, the Court uses the best interests standard. This means that the Court will take into the account what is in the best interest of the children. Sometimes child’s preference is taken into account as a factor in the Court’s decision-making, if that child is mature and old enough to discern, in an age appropriate way.

As children get older, one parent may feel that the custody arrangement, or parenting time as it’s referred to in Colorado, is insufficient, and that parent wants more time with the children. A parent’s desire for more parenting time is a reason to file a motion with the Court.   Again, the Court would look as to whether it is in the best interests of the now older child, to spend more time with that particular parent. Essentially, this is where a motion to modify parenting time can benefit parents and their children.

One caveat, however, is that once you do a motion to modify, there is a two-year moratorium on filing another motion to modify.   From the Court’s point of view, it doesn’t want people coming in to modify custody agreements arbitrarily or on an excessive basis, so there is a two-year period of time before you can file another motion to modify. A sub-caveat of this, however, is that if there is some sort of child endangerment, you can always bring a motion to modify if there is a level of endangerment that needs to be addressed right away. That two-year moratorium does not apply if you have a real concern over safety and endangerment of your child.  A parent can always file  a motion to restrict parenting time if their children are in risk of physical or emotional harm.

#3 Relocation

Relocation modification, or “removal,” as the Court refers to it, is the third way to modify parenting time. Frequently, if one parent is planning to move out-of-state, or alternatively, move in-state, but far enough away that it would have to significantly change parenting time, a modification if an option. If the parent is seeking to move out-of-state with the child, this type of modification is a motion to relocate.

That in and of itself is an entire video, how that works, how difficult it is to get a relocation agreement, and all of the law surrounding it, and there is quite a bit of law surrounding a motion to relocate. Relocations for post-decree (after divorce) parenting time modifications are governed by the Relocation Statute, C.R.S. § 14-10-129, enacted in 2001.  Also, depending on whether the parties already have a parenting plan in place, or whether the parents are unmarried and filing a motion for the first time, the Court applies the “best interests standard,” C.R.S. § 14-10-124. In re Marriage of Ciesluk, a 2005 Colorado Supreme Court case, the Court established a standard that balances the 9 factors outlined in the statute, so that neither party has a presumption that they can relocate with the child. In another case, Spahmer v. Gullette, the Court applies a slightly different standard if parents are filing a motion regarding parenting time for the first time (in other words, the parents were unmarried and never had a formal court order issued regarding parenting time). Suffice it to say, for this video, the litigation of removal is extremely fact specific, and the justification to separate a child from a parent is a high burden for both sides. As you can tell, naturally, if you’re planning to move out of state, you will have to address parenting time, since it will be significantly impacted by the change in distance. For more information about modifying parenting time, filing for divorce, how divorce works, or any other family law matters in Colorado, call us at 303-329-3802.