There may come a time when you need to make changes to your child custody agreement. Custodial and noncustodial parents can file for modifications to child custody in Colorado. The courts support safe and supportive living arrangement changes, and prefer these kinds of modifications to disruptive changes. The courts will only accept a child custody change if it is in the child’s best interest. If you believe you have the elements necessary to secure a custody, parenting time, or decision-making order, here are the steps you must take. Speak to a Fort Collins child custody attorney for more information about your specific case.
Determine Your Right to File for Modification
Colorado courts only allow changes in child custody and decision-making orders every two years. This means that if the court changed your order in the last two years, you must wait until two years have passed to make another modification. There are two exceptions to this rule: if the court decides that waiting would endanger the child’s health or emotional development, or if you are requesting to modify the child’s main residence. Otherwise, you must wait a minimum of two years from the time of the court’s previous modification.
Note that filing for modifications of child custody, decision-making responsibilities, and parenting time are three different things with three separate filing requirements. If you are filing to modify a parenting time agreement, you must also wait two years from the last modification. However, exceptions include if the parent with primary custody of the child has plans to move and take the child far away from you. In these cases, the courts may allow you to file for a modification in parenting time prior to the two-year mark.
When to Use a Stipulation Agreement
Next, determine what type of motion you will file. If you and your co-parent unanimously agree on the changes in the child custody, you will use a stipulation to ask the court to modify your responsibilities. Stipulations use Form JDF 1415, the Verified Stipulation to Modify Decision-making Responsibility. You may also require Parenting Plan forms to show the courts your new proposed parenting plan. A stipulation is only the right choice if you and the other parent agree on all the modifications to the existing order. Disagreement on any point, no matter how minor, requires filing a motion instead of a stipulation.
How to File a Motion for Child Custody Modification
If you and your co-parent do not agree on all the terms of a modification, file a motion with the courts. Parents may file a motion in circumstances such as:
The child is integrated into the family of the party filing the motion, warranting a modification of decision-making responsibilities.
There has been a change to the parenting time order that warrants a modification to the decision-making order.
One party has consistently given the other party the right to make decisions for the child that both parties are meant to make mutually.
The child’s health or emotional development are in danger, and the benefits that a change to the child’s environment might bring about outweigh the harms.
Fill out Form 1415 as you would for a stipulation, but make sure to check the correct boxes for filing a motion. You must submit this form with the same court that first created the child support orders in your family. This is the only court with the power to make modifications. Keep in mind that if custody modifications affect child support, you will also need to file a motion to change your support agreement.
The courts will send a copy of your motion to the other parent, notifying him or her of your petition to modify child custody orders. Within 49 days of filing the motion, the courts will review your motion and decide whether to schedule and resolve the case with or without a hearing. If necessary, a Colorado family law attorney can help you fight to modify the custody arrangement if it is truly best for the entire family.