After a legal separation or divorce, the courts may order a child custody (or “parenting time”) agreement, in which one parent does not have full or joint custody, but visitation rights. Visitation rights in Colorado grant non-custodial parents the opportunity to visit children in supervised or unsupervised settings on a pre-determined schedule. Shared parenting time is important after a divorce, as studies show that children do best when they remain in contact with both parents. If something, such as your job, prevents you from fulfilling your visitation hours, learn the possible repercussions of missing too many meetings.
Request for Modification of Parenting Time
In the event that the other parent is understanding of why you’re missing visitations, or does not have any qualms about you not showing up, you may not face any repercussions from missing too many visitations. The courts will not become involved unless someone files a motion for custody modification or brings to light negative effects on the children. If, however, your co-parent believes it is in the child’s best interest to modify the child custody order to reduce or eliminate your visitation time, he or she has the right to petition the family courts and request this change.
To modify parental responsibilities in Colorado, either parent can download the correct form and submit it to the county court. The court will determine how to resolve the case within 49 days of your co-parent’s filing of the motion. The court will choose to either resolve your case using the provisions of the Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 16.2(c) or decide to proceed with no hearing. You will receive a notification of the motion and the court’s decision.
The court will consider whether both parties agree to the modification, whether decision-making responsibilities also need modification in light of the proposed custodial changes, and whether the modification is in the child’s best interest. The court will look at the child’s emotional development and physical health in deciding whether or not to approve the modification. If the modification will cause a change to the child’s environment that will cause more harm than good to the child, the court will not approve.
Arguing Your Case in Court
If you believe you should retain the right to visitation of your child despite missing previous meetings, you may attend the hearing regarding your custody modification motion. It may be necessary to prove to the courts that continuing visitation rights is in your child’s best interest, or that there was a sufficient reason for you to miss multiple visitations in the past. Attending the hearing is your best chance to avoid the court deciding that a custody schedule is unnecessary, and granting primary custody indefinitely to your co-parent.
In an extreme case, your ex-spouse may move to increase child support payments on top of taking over primary custody. This may be an option if the courts decide the primary caregiver requires more financial support for the extra time the child would have normally been with the other parent. As an “absent parent,” you may lose your right to custody and have to pay more in child support due to failure to show up according to your visitation schedule.
To avoid the possibility of losing custody of a child after a divorce, do not miss enough visitations to create a problem for your child or irritate your ex-spouse. Custody modification and elimination of visitation rights rest largely with your co-parent. Sticking to your visitation schedule as best you can will prevent any motions for modifications, and retain your rights to visit your child. If you find yourself facing the chance of losing custody rights for missing too many visitations, contact a Fort Collins family law attorney for legal counsel.