Child Custody

A Guide to the Step-Parent Adoption Process in Colorado

Posted in Child Custody on April 11, 2023

The word “family” has a broad meaning in the United States, referring to many different combinations of loved ones, not all of whom are related by blood. With the U.S. Census board reporting that 75% of divorced individuals remarry, approximately 1,300 new families with step-children form every day. While the majority of biological parents without primary custody of their child remain deeply involved in that child’s life, in some cases, a biological parent may decline to be an active participant in raising their child. A biological parent may have active addictions or lifestyle choices that make it impossible or unadvisable to play a role in a child’s life. In many of those cases, a step-parent’s role in a child’s life may fill the critical gap left behind by the biological parent.

If you or your spouse want your family relationship legally recognized in Colorado, you may seek to cement the parent/child relationship with a step-parent adoption. 

What is the process for a step-parent to adopt their step-child in Colorado?

Requirements for Step-Parent Adoption in Colorado

Colorado courts always prioritize the best interests of a child. For this reason, they have certain requirements that must be in place before a step-parent can file for adoption. Your case must meet the following prerequisites:

  • The adopting step-parent must be at least 21 years old
  • The adopting step-parent must be married to the child’s biological parent
  • The non-custodial biological parent’s parental rights must be terminated unless the other biological parent is deceased.

Termination of Parental Rights for Step-Parent Adoption

Colorado courts protect the constitutional rights of parents. For that reason, a step-parent cannot simply adopt a step-child as their own if the result usurps a living biological parent’s place in the child’s life or essentially gives the child a third legal parent. Instead, the courts restrict step-parents from adopting unless the non-custodial biological parent’s rights are legally terminated in one of two ways:

  • The biological parent willingly relinquishes their parental rights
  • The biological parent loses their parental rights in a court hearing

Some biological parents make the decision to relinquish—sign away—parental rights on their own because they see that it’s in the child’s best interest to allow a step-parent to take on the role of caring for and financially supporting the child. While the courts won’t typically allow a parent to sign away their own parental rights if they have child support obligations, they will do so if a step-parent is prepared to fill the role of financially supporting the child, which is a legal obligation of parenthood once an adoption becomes final.

If a parent won’t willingly relinquish their parental rights or cannot be located, the child’s biological parent may file a motion to terminate that parent’s rights. 

Involuntary Termination of Parental Rights in Colorado

Colorado requires significant grounds for termination, showing that the parent cannot or will not provide a loving, stable environment for the child. Grounds for involuntary termination of parental rights include:

  • Long-term incarceration
  • Sexual abuse
  • Physical abuse
  • Parental neglect leading to the child’s injury or the injury or death of a sibling
  • Abandonment of the child for a year or more
  • Failing to fulfill court-ordered child visitation
  • Failing to provide court-ordered child support for a year or more with little likelihood of paying in the future

Colorado Child Custody Lawyer

How Does Colorado Step-Parent Adoption Move Forward After Termination of Parental Rights?

With a child’s best interests in mind, the court requires state and federal fingerprinting checks and a background check on step-parents seeking to adopt. Once the court clears a step-parent as eligible to adopt, the following framework applies:

  • The step-parent files a petition to adopt and submits a notice of fees paid
  • The custodial parent signs a consent form
  • The child signs a consent form if they are age 12 or over
  • Parent and step-parent receive a hearing notice
  • The non-custodial parent terminates rights and must sign a consent to the adoption
  • Parent and step-parent sign a waiver and acceptance of service forms
  • The parent and step-parent attend a hearing to finalize the adoption

A Colorado family attorney with experience in step-parent adoption can help to streamline the process and diligently ensure that the paperwork is properly filled out and filed, and that your case meets all legal requirements to move forward toward your new family life.

Divorce & Spring Break: How to Navigate Traveling and Co-Parenting

Posted in Child Custody on March 31, 2023

Planning travel can be difficult if you and your co-parent are divorced or separated. School holidays such as spring break can lead to tension, arguments and stress. By planning ahead and getting the entire family on the same page, you and your children can enjoy a fun and relaxing vacation this spring.

Plan Ahead for School Breaks and Holidays  

As with any parenting decision after a divorce, planning is key. You and your ex-spouse should create a detailed parenting plan as part of your custody agreement, or else the courts will make one for you. Either way, every school break and holiday should be accounted for in your plan. You and your co-parent should know who the kids will be with during all major holidays, including spring break, summer and Christmas vacation.  

With an advanced parenting plan in place, there won’t be any arguments over whose turn it is with the kids when each holiday rolls around. Planning ahead can also protect your children from the emotional stress of last-minute changes. You and your children can both enjoy greater peace of mind knowing what the plan will be.

Know the Terms of Your Custody Agreement

Before you start planning your spring break, make sure you’re clear on the terms of your custody agreement. This is especially important if you plan on traveling out of the state or country. The farther away you plan on traveling with your children, the more caution you should take to adhere to the terms of your custody agreement. Misunderstanding the terms of your custody agreement and your rights as a parent could lead to accusations of parental kidnapping.

In your court documents allocating legal and physical custody to you and your co-parent, there may be restrictions on your right to travel with the kids. Read the language of your divorce agreement carefully before going anywhere. Note that if your divorce case is still underway, the courts in Colorado enact an automatic temporary injunction that prevents either parent from taking the children out of Colorado without the other parent’s consent or a court order.

Create a Travel Itinerary  

The parent that wishes to travel with the children should create a highly detailed travel itinerary to keep the other parent informed on exactly where the children will be and what they will be doing each day. The itinerary should include where you are staying, how you plan on traveling, your flight or travel information, contact numbers during your trip, and who you will be traveling with. Provide a written itinerary to your co-parent to avoid any disputes or miscommunications.

Communicate as Consistently as Possible

Communication while traveling can be difficult due to time changes or low-service areas; however, you should make an effort to communicate with your co-parent as consistently as possible when you are away with the kids. Keeping your co-parent informed throughout your trip – and allowing the kids to maintain contact with their other parent – can keep your co-parent’s mind at ease and prevent issues.

Consider Traveling With Your Co-Parent

Depending on your situation, the age of your children and your ability to cooperate with your co-parent, traveling together as a family this spring break might be a good option. Traveling together means you can both enjoy time with your kids. It can also mean that you don’t have to swap parenting time and miss another holiday to have the kids for spring break. Finally, your children won’t have to miss out on spending time with one of their parents.

Traveling together as co-parents takes patience, planning and communication. You will need to be able to compromise with your ex-spouse on your plans for the holiday and work out key details together. While on vacation, set boundaries to reduce conflict. Arrange separate accommodations and decide together which room the kids will stay in each night. Be mindful of the experience you are giving your children this spring break; always put them first when making co-parenting decisions for vacations.

The Different Types of Child Custody in Colorado

Posted in Child Custody on February 28, 2023

Undergoing the divorce process is always distressful, but when spouses with children divorce, child custody issues are often the most difficult and contentious aspects of the divorce agreement. No parent relishes the idea of an impartial judge deciding how much time they can spend with their own children, or adjusting to a court-ordered timetable. However, Colorado family courts always place the best interests of the child as their highest priority and the court considers both parents enjoying “continuing and frequent contact time spent with their children” as the best possible outcome.

When parents can negotiate civilly and decide on a fair and mutually agreeable custody schedule, it’s likely that a judge will simply sign off on the agreement. This is the best way for parents to keep important child-raising decisions within their family rather than in the hands of a judge. But before spouses can attempt to address child custody in Colorado, it helps to understand the different types of custody.

Custody Types in Colorado Family Law

Since 1999, Colorado began dropping the use of “custody” in reference to children and instead addresses this aspect of divorced parenting as “parental responsibilities.” This breaks down to three aspects of parental responsibilities or the following four types of child custody in Colorado:

  • Decision-Making Parental Responsibility (Legal custody): This refers to the parent’s right to make important decisions for the child such as medical, educational, and religious decisions.
  • Parenting time (Physical custody): This refers to the time each parent has care of the children in their home, including providing all daily essentials and transporting children to school, daycare, and extra-curricular activities. Parenting time is divided into two types of custody: joint custody, and sole custody.
  • Shared Parental Responsibility (Joint Custody) is when both parents have equal decision-making authority and equal or close to equal parenting time on one of the state’s recommended shared custody schedules.
  • Sole Parental Responsibility (Sole custody) is when one parent retains primary physical custody of the child while the other parent has visitation rights on a pre-set schedule. Under this type of custody, one parent may also have sole decision-making responsibility or it may be shared jointly.

Child support in Colorado isn’t based on shared or sole custody alone, but instead, it’s based on calculating gross monthly income and expenses and then determining an amount the higher-earning parent must pay the lower-earning parent in order to prevent undue hardship and to maintain the children’s accustomed lifestyle.

Parenting Schedules in Colorado

Shared custody schedules in 50/50 parenting time arrangements are the most popular type of custody arrangement in Colorado today. Parents can choose from a variety of preset schedules such as the following:

  • The 2-2-5-5 schedule, which is 2 days with one parent, then 2 days with the other, followed by 5 days with the first parent, followed by 5 days with the other. This allows a close to even number of weekdays and weekends.
  • The 2-2-3 schedule is one that works well for parents with very young children and prevents young children from going long periods of time away from either parent.
  • The 3-4-4-3 schedule
  • The alternating weeks schedule works well for older children

When parents cannot agree on matters of child custody and parenting schedules, the judge will make a decision and issue a child custody order. The judge considers many factors including the parents’ schedules, each parent’s opinions and requests, each parent’s history of involvement with the children, and each parent’s willingness to support the continued relationship with the other parent. For older children, the judge will also consider child preference but always decides in the child’s best interests. To have a lawyer on your side, contact the Law Office of Stephen Vertucci. 

Do Grandparents Have Visitation Rights?

Posted in Child Custody on January 30, 2023

A divorce is hard on everyone – including the grandparents. If your child is going through a divorce or legal separation, you may wonder how this will affect your relationship and time spent with your grandchildren. This may especially be a concern if you do not have a good relationship with your soon-to-be-ex daughter-in-law or son-in-law. In Colorado, grandparents can be granted visitation rights.

Seeking Visitation as a Grandparent in Colorado

Under Colorado Revised Statute (C.R.S.) 19-1-117(1), a grandparent or great-grandparent may seek a court order granting visitation rights during a child custody case or a case concerning the allocation of parental responsibilities over a grandchild. Visitation does not mean custody; it is simply the right to visit with a child or grandchild, either supervised or unsupervised. With court-ordered visitation rights, the child’s parent(s) legally cannot keep the child from his or her grandparent. 

Seeking an order for visitation as a grandparent starts with submitting a motion for visitation. This order will go to the district court where the child resides. Along with the order, an affidavit must be submitted that sets forth the facts supporting your request. A copy of the motion and affidavit must be sent to the person who has legal custody of the child. This person may then file opposing affidavits to argue against grandparent visitation. The child’s parents have the right to respond to the motion and give reasons why visitation should be withheld.

It is also possible for a grandparent to seek legal custody, in some circumstances. If a child’s parents are deemed unfit for custody or abandon the child, a grandparent can seek the placement of his or her grandchild in the grandparents’ home. If a grandparent visitation or custody case goes to a hearing, a judge will ultimately make a decision based on what is in the best interests of the child.

Who Qualifies as a Grandparent?

A grandparent is defined by law as a person who is the parent of a child’s mother or father and is related to the child by blood (in whole or half), adoption, or marriage. However, it does not include the parent of a child’s legal mother or father whose parental rights have been terminated. A great-grandparent is the grandparent of a child’s mother or father who is related to the child by blood, adoption or marriage. Again, it does not include the grandparent of a legal mother or father whose parental rights have been terminated.

Disputes Involving Grandparent Visitation

If a grandparent or great-grandparent has been granted visitation rights by the courts, the child’s parents or legal guardians legally must comply with the order. According to C.R.S. Section 19-1-117.5, if the person with legal custody or parental responsibilities is not complying with a grandparent visitation order, the grandparent can return to court by filing a motion alleging noncompliance.

Upon receiving this motion, the court will investigate and determine whether there “has been or is likely to be a substantial and continuing noncompliance with the grandparent visitation order or schedule.” If the grandparent’s allegation is deemed valid, the court may issue additional orders according to the best interests of the child. 

This may include imposing additional terms or conditions on the existing visitation schedule, modifying the previous order, requiring the violator to post bond to ensure future compliance, and requiring makeup visitation for lost time. Finally, the grandparent could be awarded actual expenses incurred for having to take the matter to court.

Speak to an Attorney About Grandparent Visitation Rights

If you are dealing with a custody situation involving your grandchildren, a family law attorney in Colorado can help. A lawyer can protect your rights as a grandparent and help you file a motion for visitation during a divorce, legal separation or another issue regarding parental responsibilities over your grandchild. Contact the Law Office of Stephen Vertucci today at (970) 900-1800 for a consultation.

Can a Child Refuse Visitation?

Posted in Child Custody on December 31, 2022

If the courts order visitation as part of a child custody agreement in a divorce case in Colorado, this gives the parent the legal right to visit with his or her child. As an order from the court, visitation is legally enforceable. However, things can get complicated if the child refuses visitation or wants a different arrangement.

Does a Child Have a Say in a Custody Agreement?

Yes and no. Whether a child’s wishes are taken into account during a custody case depends on the circumstances. There is no specific age at which a child is old enough to contribute to custody decisions in Colorado. A judge will decide on a case-by-case basis according to the child’s age and maturity. If the child’s wishes are taken into account, this could alter the custody and visitation schedule. Once the parenting time schedule has been finalized, all parties must comply with its requirements.

What if a Child or Teen Refuses Visitation?

A divorce can be hard on the children involved. As a child gets older, he or she may not want to take time away from his or her friends or life to visit with the noncustodial parent. However, the courts expect the custodial parent to encourage visitation. If a child is reluctant to visit the other parent, the custodial parent is required to encourage the visits to comply with the custody order. 

Otherwise, the noncustodial parent could argue that the other parent isn’t letting the child visit. In extreme cases, this could even lead to parental abduction allegations. The custodial parent needs proof that he or she has taken steps to comply with the court order and ensure child visitation. If the child is refusing visitation, however, there is only so much a parent can do. 

A judge will not force a child to visit with a parent. If the child is at least 14 years old, the Colorado courts may take the child’s wishes into account and alter the parenting plan. This is more likely to occur with an older child, such as one who is 16 or 17. At age 18, the child is an adult and no longer has to comply with a custody arrangement. At younger ages, however, the custodial parent should do his or her best to encourage visitation.

What to Do if Visitation Presents a Danger to Your Child

If you find yourself in a situation where your child is refusing visitation or throwing a tantrum when it’s time to visit your ex-spouse, ask why. Get to the bottom of what’s bothering your child and see if it’s something you can fix. If your child tells you that something bad happens when he or she visits with the other parent, this could be grounds to have your custody arrangement changed. 

According to Colorado Revised Statutes 14-10-129, if there is evidence that a child’s emotional or physical development could be harmed by visiting with the noncustodial parent, the custodial parent can petition to have the custody agreement modified. If there is evidence of domestic violence, child abuse, neglect or substance abuse, for example, the courts will modify the custody arrangement and may take away the parent’s visitation rights. 

The courts will carefully investigate a custody situation before accepting a modification request. A judge will analyze multiple factors, such as the child’s wishes (if old enough), parental fitness, financial capabilities and each parent’s relationship with the child. If the courts agree that it would not be in the child’s best interest to continue visiting the noncustodial parent, a new order may be issued. However, the courts typically will not alter a custody agreement based on the wishes of the child alone.

Contact a Child Custody Attorney

Child custody and visitation schedules are a complicated part of any divorce or legal separation case. If your child is refusing to visit with your ex-spouse, solutions are available. Contact a child custody attorney in Fort Collins for advice and legal services to help your family resolve the issue.

Do Stepparents Have Any Rights in a Custody Battle?

Posted in Child Custody on December 30, 2022

A child custody issue in Colorado typically involves the child’s two biological or legal parents. A judge will assign parenting time (physical custody) and legal custody to either or both parents based on the best interests of the child. If a blended family has a stepparent, however, this could affect a custody decision. There are certain scenarios where a stepparent parent has the right to claim custody of a child.

What Is the Stepparent’s Relationship With the Child?

Whether a stepparent will have custodial rights during a divorce case in Colorado depends on his or her relationship with the child. If the stepparent has legally adopted the stepchild, the stepparent is viewed as the child’s legal parent. This will give the stepparent all of the same rights as the child’s biological parent. In this scenario, both parents would have equal rights to child custody and visitation. The stepparent could share custody of the stepchild with the biological parent after the divorce or separation.

If the stepparent did not legally adopt the child, he or she will have fewer custodial rights. The stepparent will not be viewed as the legal parent of the stepchild. Under normal circumstances, a judge would not award custody to the stepparent over the child’s biological or legal parent in this situation. However, child custody decisions are always made according to the best interests of the child in Colorado.

A Stepparent’s Rights in Colorado

If the courts decide on a joint custody arrangement between a stepparent who has not adopted the child and a biological or legal parent, the stepparent will have fewer rights. While the stepparent can receive legal rights, as a general rule, the stepparent will not have the right to determine medical care for the stepchild. This can be changed, however, if the child’s biological parents sign a consent form. Stepparents do have the right to access school records and attend school functions. Finally, stepparents may be asked to participate in a child’s disciplinary arrangements. 

How to Adopt Your Stepchild

The best way to ensure that you have legal rights as a stepparent in a custody battle in Colorado is to legally adopt your stepchild. This will guarantee that you are viewed as the child’s legal parent and will be given the same rights as his or her biological parent in a divorce case. There are two ways to legally adopt a stepchild in Colorado:

  • If the child’s other biological parent is no longer alive, the living parent can give his or her written consent for the stepparent to adopt the child.
  • If the child’s other biological parent is still alive, the stepparent may only adopt the child if the other parent voluntarily surrenders his or her parental rights in writing.

If adoption is not an option, the other way for a stepparent to enhance his or her rights during a custody battle is to get a signed consent form from one or both biological parents. If the parent(s) of the child signs a form giving the stepparent legal rights, he or she may be given custody or visitation after a divorce.

Petitioning the Courts for Visitation Rights as a Stepparent

If you are a stepparent that has not legally adopted your stepchild, you can still petition the courts for custody or visitation rights during a divorce case in Colorado. Visitation is more likely than custody if you are not the child’s legal parent. Visitation gives you the right to visit with the stepchild after a divorce or legal separation. Grandparents can also seek visitation rights in Colorado. 

The courts may grant a stepparent’s visitation request if they believe it is in the child’s best interest to remain in contact with the stepparent after the split. The desires of the child may also be taken into account if the child is at least 14 years of age. In a case where the child’s biological or legal parent passes away, a stepparent can also petition for custody of the child. For more information about a stepparent’s rights in a custody battle in Colorado, contact a child custody attorney.

What Is an Interstate Custody Agreement?

Posted in Child Custody on December 30, 2022

Child custody is one of the most complicated and contested parts of the average divorce case. When divorced parents live in two different states, child custody becomes even more confusing. The family will need what is known as an interstate custody agreement to tackle the challenges of this unique situation.

When Can a Parent Move Out of State?

After a divorce involving children, the parents typically do not have the freedom to move wherever they want. They must go through the proper channels before moving, especially moving out of state or to a different country. This involves getting the other parent’s permission to make the move or obtaining a signature from a judge. If two parents do live in different states, they will need an interstate child custody agreement to plan parenting time.

What Is the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act?

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) was created to make it easier for parents to navigate a joint custody arrangement from different states. It is a federal law that enforces certain rules and guidelines for interstate custody arrangements. Here are the basics of how the UCCJEA works:

  • It determines which state has original jurisdiction in a child custody dispute. Then, it requires all state courts to enforce a valid child custody order that was made by the original court.
  • It identifies the original custody action as beginning in the child’s “home state,” or the state where the child has lived for at least six months prior to the custody case being filed.
  • It gives the originating state jurisdiction to modify a child custody or visitation order, as long as the child or one of the parents still lives in that state.
  • If neither the child nor parents live in the originating state, jurisdiction over the child custody case will follow the child to his or her new home state.
  • Emergency jurisdiction can be granted to the state where the child is, if the courts find that this is needed.
  • Jurisdiction can also be changed if one parent is part of a domestic violence situation in the originating state, if the two states are very far apart, or if one or both parties do not have the financial means to travel.

The UCCJEA can make it easier to navigate a child custody agreement that involves multiple states by determining which state has jurisdiction over the custody order and where custody disputes must be resolved. It also requires parents to give adequate notice to all other involved parties regarding a custody matter.

How Does an Interstate Custody Agreement Work?

Every case is unique. If two parents live in different states after a divorce or legal separation, the custody arrangement used will depend on what is in the best interests of the child involved. The arrangement will depend on factors such as the distance between both households, how well the parents communicate with each other, and the child’s connections to his or her community and school in his or her home state.

Interstate custody agreements have to take into account the mechanics of a child traveling to a different state – for example, will someone travel with the child? Who is responsible for paying for travel costs? If a joint custody agreement is chosen, the child typically will not go back and forth within the same week to two different states. Instead, the child may spend summers with one parent and the rest of the year with the other parent, for example. Video calls may also be implemented. 

If a custody dispute arises, the parents will rely on the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act to determine which state has jurisdiction over the order. Then, the parents will file papers in this state to resolve the custody dispute. If you and your ex-spouse are co-parenting across state lines, contact a child custody attorney to help you navigate the complexities of your interstate custody agreement.

How to Gain Sole Custody in Colorado

Posted in Child Custody on September 30, 2022

Child custody is often the most important and contested part of a divorce case involving children in Colorado. No parent wants to sacrifice any amount of time with their child. Unfortunately, this is the reality of getting divorced. If you believe that it is in your child’s best interest to live with you full time, you can file for sole custody in Colorado. Obtaining sole custody, however, is challenging.

How Is Child Custody Determined in Colorado?

It is important to know that the courts view sole custody as a last resort. They are not in the habit of awarding full custody to one parent and taking away the other parent’s custodial rights entirely. Instead, the courts believe that it is generally in a child’s best interests to remain in frequent and meaningful contact with both parents after a divorce. For this reason, a shared or joint custody arrangement is most common in Colorado. However, the courts will award sole custody in situations where they believe that being in the care of one parent would potentially harm the child physically, mentally or emotionally.

What Can You Do to Increase Your Chances of Getting Sole Custody?

If you desire sole custody of your child(ren) in a divorce case in Colorado, there are steps that you can take to improve the likelihood of achieving this outcome. You have an uphill battle ahead of you, however, and may require assistance from a qualified child custody lawyer in Fort Collins. An attorney can help you take all of the steps necessary to strengthen your child custody case and improve your odds of having full custody.

Prove That Your Ex-Spouse Is an Unfit Parent

In Colorado, one parent’s custodial rights may be terminated if he or she is declared “unfit.” This means that the individual has been ruled unable to properly provide for the child’s needs and well-being. The definition of what makes a parent unfit changes from state to state. In Colorado, proving that your ex-spouse is unfit is difficult. It comes with a highly involved legal process. First, you or your lawyer will need to provide evidence supporting your argument as to why your ex is an unfit parent, such as:

You will need evidence and documentation to support your argument, such as police reports, medical records or witnesses. You may also need to request a psychological evaluation of your ex-spouse. Note, however, that requesting this evaluation typically means that you will need to undergo one, as well. If the courts conclude that your ex-spouse is an unfit parent, his or her parental rights may be taken away.

Show That Sole Custody Is in Your Child’s Best Interests 

The next step is establishing that sole custody would be in your child’s best interests after your divorce. As stated above, the courts typically hold that continuing contact with both parents is what is best for a child. It is up to you or your lawyer to show that sole custody with you is in fact what is best for your child’s physical and psychological well-being. This argument may be based on reasons connected to your ex being an unfit parent, but you will also need to prove that you are a fit parent; for instance, that you have character witnesses and a successful track record of being your child’s primary caregiver.

Hire an Experienced Attorney for Child Custody Assistance

You will need to be proactive if sole custody is a goal that you want to achieve in your divorce case. Hire an experienced divorce lawyer in Fort Collins from the very beginning to start building your custody case. A lawyer will be prepared to take your custody case to trial to fight for what is best for your child, if necessary. 

Your lawyer will know all of the techniques used to achieve sole custody. In addition, your lawyer can give you an honest evaluation of whether sole custody is possible in your case. For more information, contact The Law Office of Stephen Vertucci, LLC to request a consultation with one of our child custody lawyers.

Is a Nesting Agreement Right for You?

Posted in Child Custody on June 7, 2022

Child custody is often the largest point of contention in a Colorado divorce case. What most parents can agree on, however, is that they want what’s best for their children. To some families, this means keeping the children in the family home 100 percent of the time rather than making them alternate residences when the parents share custody. This custody arrangement is known as bird nesting, bird-nest parenting or simply nesting.

What Is a Nesting Agreement in Divorce?

A nesting agreement in a divorce or legal separation case is a type of shared custody plan where the focus is on keeping the children in the home they are used to living in full-time. Rather than a traditional joint custody plan, where the children split their time between the two separate residences of each parent, a nesting agreement rotates the parents out of the family home according to an agreed-upon schedule and lets the children stay there full time.

Bird-nest parenting typically looks like this: Parent A lives in the family home with the children while Parent B lives in a rented space. When it’s time to switch custody – when it’s Parent B’s parenting time with the kids – Parent A and Parent B switch places. Parent A will stay in their rented space while Parent B stays in the marital home with the children until it’s Parent A’s parenting time. This pattern will continue for the duration of the parenting plan, with the parents rotating in and out of the home for their parenting time and the children never leaving.

Does Nesting Work Long Term?

A nesting agreement can work long term if both parents are on the same page and willing to work together. Like more traditional child custody arrangements, bird-nest parenting still requires an established parenting plan. Nesting is not a substitute for a time-sharing arrangement in a divorce case.

You and your spouse will need to sit down together and work out exactly what your schedule will look like – including who will be in the marital home with the children for weekends, weekdays, holidays, birthdays, school vacations, special occasions, etc. Nesting has a better chance of working long term if a couple is amicable and able to communicate and work together for the sake of their children.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Nesting Agreement?

If you and your spouse are curious whether a nesting agreement is right for your family, consider the various pros and cons that can come with this arrangement:


  • The changes that children have to adapt to during a divorce are kept to a minimum.
  • Children don’t have to spend any time away from their friends, community or nearby family members.
  • Children can continue attending the same daycare, school or church all week long.
  • Neither parent has to give up living in the marital home.
  • You can save money by renting a small studio for the nonmarital property.
  • You don’t have to decide right away whether you want to sell or keep the family home.


  • You are unable to sell the marital home, which can prevent a clean break.
  • Not selling the marital home can also have negative financial consequences.
  • It can be difficult to work out matters such as who will pay for repairs to the marital home.
  • Organizing taxes, such as who gets to deduct the mortgage interest, can be difficult.
  • Calculating child support can be more difficult since both parents are still technically living together.
  • The couple must be able to communicate and work together to share a living space.
  • This arrangement can get tricky if one or both parents start to date other people.

You have a lot to think about as a parent considering a nesting agreement after divorce or legal separation. Talk this option over with a Fort Collins child custody lawyer for further information and personalized advice for your family’s unique situation.

Emancipation of Minors in Colorado: Does It Affect Child Support Obligations?

Posted in Child Custody on November 29, 2021

Fort Collins child custody lawyer

Child support is a major part of many divorce and legal separation cases in Colorado. For the most part, a child support order will last until a child turns 19 – the age of majority in Colorado. Certain circumstances may change the age at which a child support obligation ends, however, either by cutting it short early or extending it past the age of 19. Emancipation is something that could shorten the required payment, depending on the case.

What Is Emancipation?

Emancipation in Colorado means that the rights and responsibilities that exist between a parent and child are terminated. To become emancipated in Colorado, a minor must fulfill certain requirements. For child support purposes, according to Colorado Revised Statutes Section 14-10-115(13), emancipation automatically occurs without either party filing a motion when the last child of the marriage turns 19 years old. This means most child support obligations end at age 19.

However, a child could also become emancipated early, which could terminate the child support agreement before the child turns 19. For example, if a minor gets married or joins the armed forces, he or she is legally considered emancipated in Colorado. It may also be possible for the minor to emancipate himself or herself through a court procedure, if the minor can prove that he or she lives alone, can self-support financially, and manage his or her own affairs. Once a child becomes emancipated, the paying parent generally will no longer have to pay child support.

What Happens to Your Child Support Agreement if a Minor Emancipates Early?

If your child meets any of the conditions that make him or her legally considered emancipated before turning 19 in Colorado, this will end your child support obligation early. An emancipated minor is no longer considered dependent on the custodial parent, as he or she can support himself or herself financially. Therefore, the paying parent will no longer be responsible for paying child support for the emancipated child.

You do not need to take any legal steps to stop paying child support for an emancipated child in Colorado. After marriage, military enlistment or an emancipation procedure, your child will legally be considered emancipated. This will automatically relieve you of your support obligation for that child without you needing to file a motion to terminate the support with the courts. As the payer, however, you may still owe child support for other minors who are not emancipated that you share with your ex-spouse. Your order will only end after the last child becomes emancipated.

Can a Child Support Obligation Last Beyond Emancipation?

In some scenarios, a child support order can extend past the child turning 19. Even though the child will technically be considered emancipated at this age, a parent may still have to continue paying child support if there are extenuating circumstances that require the custodial parent to continue paying for child-related care, such as a disability, medical condition or a child who still goes to school. If any of the following are true, a child support obligation in Colorado may last beyond the age of 19:

  • Both parties agree to continue paying child support longer. 
  • The child is mentally or physically disabled.
  • The child is still in high school or an equivalent program.

If you are not sure how long your child support order will last based on a unique circumstance, such as early emancipation, you may need assistance from a child support lawyer in Fort Collins. The topic of emancipation can be complicated, especially if your child is attempting to become emancipated early with a court order. An attorney can help you understand your situation and how long your child support obligation will last. If you wish to modify a child support agreement based on a change in your circumstances, a lawyer can also help you with this legal matter.