How does a court decide parenting time?

How does a court decide parenting time?

Most Colorado divorces with children or child custody cases revolve around two main issues with regards to the children: (1) parenting time and (2) major decision-making.  There are two ways you can resolve either of these issues: (1) you can reach an agreement with the party; or (2) you can have the court make the decision.

Assuming you are unable to reach an agreement, the court will: (1) allocate parental responsibilities; (2) allocate decision-making responsibilities; and (3) determine parenting time.

What standard will the court apply to determine parenting time?

The court will apply the “Best Interest of Child Test” (BIC Test) to all of these determinations, including parenting time issues.  The BIC Test is codified in Colorado Rev. Stat. (CRS) § 14-10-124.  With regard to parenting time determinations, CRS § 14-10-124 (1.5)(a) states: “The court, upon the motion of either party or upon its own motion, may make provisions for parenting time that the court finds are in the child’s best interests unless the court finds, after a hearing, that parenting time by the party would endanger the child’s physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development.”

Under the BIC Test, the court will consider several factors when making parenting time determinations.  Relevant factors include:

  • The wishes of the parents
  • The wishes of the child (if the court determines he or she is “sufficiently mature”)
  • The child’s existing relationship with his or her parents and siblings
  • The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved
  • The ability of the parties to foster and encourage a positive living environment
  • Past patterns of the parents’ conduct regarding the child
  • The proximity of the parties to each other; and
  • The ability of each party to “place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs”

It is important when presenting your case to provide evidence related to these factors. The Court does not have an easy job in determining the best parenting time schedule between to parents. There are no winners in these types of cases.

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Lauren Lester is an affordable family law, estate planning, and probate lawyer licensed in Colorado.