As parents going through a custody or divorce case in Colorado, you’ll be required to create a parenting plan that outlines how you will raise your child. This plan will become a part of the court order for parental responsibilities. Let’s dive into the details.
Agreeing on a Plan
If you and the other parent are able to reach an agreement on all aspects of the parenting plan, the court encourages you to draft the plan together and seek approval from a judge. However, if there are points of disagreement, you can still file a joint plan for the areas where you do agree. In cases where there is a lack of agreement on almost everything, each parent will write their own proposal for a parenting plan.
Regardless of the level of disagreement, it is important to fill out a pretrial statement that outlines your points of disagreement and explains why your approach is in the best interests of the child. This statement may require a hearing before a judge can resolve the dispute.
If the other parent is unresponsive and does not participate in the case, the court will typically approve your parenting plan. In some cases, the court may implement a step-up plan that allows the absent parent to gradually increase their involvement in the future. Such plans may include requirements for therapy or supervised parenting time.
Submitting Your Plan
Some parents opt to agree on a parenting plan even before initiating their case, which expedites the resolution. However, in cases where there are disagreements about the plan, parents may choose to pursue mediation or a parenting evaluation before proposing separate plans to the court.
While it is not mandatory to propose a parenting plan to the court, it is highly recommended if you have a hearing where temporary or permanent decisions will be made. Your proposed plan will be considered an exhibit and must be submitted seven days before the hearing. Ultimately, a judge will order a parenting plan that both parties must follow. The judge may select one of your plans, or if both proposals are rejected or not submitted, they will create a plan for you.
Choosing a Template
Colorado offers a sample parenting plan that you can use as a starting point. Alternatively, you can utilize the Custody X Change parenting plan template, create your own plan from scratch, or seek assistance from a lawyer. Many parents find the Custody X Change app beneficial because it provides over 140 standard provisions for your plan while allowing you to add custom provisions as needed.
The app also facilitates the creation of a custody schedule by simply clicking and dragging on a calendar. It automatically inserts a legal description into your plan, covering regular days, holidays, and school breaks. However, it’s worth noting that Colorado’s form uses gendered terms (mother and father), so parents who prefer different titles may prefer a different template.
Essential Provisions to Include
A comprehensive parenting plan should address important topics that the Colorado courts and your child will find crucial. Here are some key areas to consider.
Consider educational, medical, religious, and extracurricular decisions. It’s increasingly important to provide details on how you will make decisions related to extracurricular activities. Medical decisions are often categorized into therapeutic, dental, and standard medical choices. For each decision type, specify whether you will both contribute to the decisions or if one parent will have sole authority. This is similar to legal custody arrangements in other states.
Outline your parenting time schedule, accounting for the school year, summer, vacations, and holidays. Clearly define the exact times and locations for the exchange of the child between parents. Additionally, address potential scenarios such as school cancellations or illnesses. By establishing clear agreements now, you can minimize the need to return to court later. It’s also helpful to determine the number of overnights each parent will have within a 365-day period, as this helps determine the child support amount.
When submitting a parenting plan to the court, attach a completed child support worksheet that calculates the recommended monthly payment amount. You can go beyond the worksheet and include your child support proposal in the plan. Specify who will make the payments, the amount, and the method and schedule of payment (e.g., mailing a check to the Family Support Registry or directly to the other parent on a specific day each month). If your proposed amount deviates from the worksheet recommendation, provide a written explanation. If the other parent disagrees, the court will hold a hearing to review and approve your suggestion. Married couples with a separation agreement can also discuss child support within that agreement.
Other Essential Considerations
To avoid any assumptions, explicitly state your essential parenting rules:
- Share your and your child’s doctors’ contact information with the other parent.
- Both parents should have access to school and medical records.
- Either parent can authorize emergency medical treatment.
- Day-to-day decisions should be made by the parent during their designated parenting time.
Additionally, consider the following issues and address them accordingly:
- Financial responsibilities: Determine who will cover medical, dental, vision, and mental health insurance costs, as well as uninsured medical expenses, school fees, and private school or college expenses.
- Child Tax Exemption: Decide who will claim the Child Tax Exemption.
- Parent-child communication: Outline how communication between the child and both parents will be facilitated.
- Travel arrangements: Discuss travel plans involving the child and establish procedures for obtaining consent.
- One-time schedule changes: Determine how and when you will request changes to the parenting schedule, such as notifying the other parent by phone at least 48 hours in advance.
- Relocation: Establish a process for revising the parenting plan if one parent moves out of a particular area.
For extracurricular activities, consider schedules and shared equipment. Some parents choose to include an agreement not to schedule activities that interfere with the other parent’s time without consent. It’s also important to decide how you will handle equipment, especially expensive items like snowboards that your child may only have one of.
Lastly, think about potential conflicts in values between you and the other parent. For example, discuss whether the child can have their ear pierced or get a tattoo without consulting the other parent.
Including a section in your plan that explains how future arguments will be resolved can provide clarity and avoid unnecessary disputes. For example, you can outline a process that involves negotiation, mediation, and, if necessary, court intervention as a last resort.
Simplify the Process with Custody X Change
Writing a parenting plan requires precise and unambiguous language that leaves no room for interpretation. Additionally, it’s crucial to include all the information mandated by the court. If you hire a lawyer or mediator, they will assist in drafting the plan to meet these requirements.
For those drafting their own plan, consider utilizing technology to eliminate guesswork. The Custody X Change online app offers a user-friendly parenting plan template that guides you through each step of the process, ensuring you don’t overlook any essential details. The end result will be a professional document that showcases your competence as a parent.
Making a parenting plan has never been easier or more reliable than with Custody X Change.