By Attorney James K. Townsend

Introduction:

As summer break approaches, divorced parents face the challenge of planning vacations, activities, and childcare. In Colorado, you also need to follow the orders in your parenting plan. This guide provides some practical advice and references to Colorado statutes and case law to help divorced parents in Colorado prepare for summer.

1. Early Planning and Communication:

I always advise my clients to communicate early and often. Colorado law encourages parents to share responsibilities and requires them to adhere to the parenting time orders established during the divorce proceedings (See C.R.S. § 14-10-124). Here are some practical tips:

  • Start discussions early, using tools like TalkingParents.
  • Use a shared digital calendar to avoid conflicts.
  • Document any agreements in writing to avoid discrepancies later.

2. A Little Flexibility Can Go a Long Way:

The primary concern for a court as it implements or modifies a parenting plan is the best interests of the child, including a parent’s ability to place the needs of the child above their own. (See C.R.S. § 14-10-129). One excellent way for a parent to show their willingness to put their child’s interests before their own is to demonstrate a willingness to accommodate the other parent for special events and holidays. Every family has issues that come up (flights that get canceled, in-laws that suddenly drop in), so every family needs a bit of flexibility from the other parent from time to time. Here are some practical tips:

  • Review your parenting plan to make sure both parents understand what to do in case of a sudden change of plans.
  • Have a backup plan such as a relative or trusted friend who can help with the kids in case the other parent changes plans at the last minute.
  • Remember, you are modeling behavior for your children, so model the type of behavior you want them to exhibit towards others.

3. Involve the Children (sort of):

I include this bit of advice cautiously. Colorado courts will consider the wishes of the child when determining or modifying parental responsibilities if the child is sufficiently mature (See C.R.S. § 14-10-124). Engaging older children in the planning process, when appropriate, helps them feel that their voices are heard. As kids get older, they get summer jobs, go to sports camps, and generally want a larger say in matters that affect them. It is imperative, however, that children are never involved in any disagreements between the parents and that they understand that the final decision will be made by the parents.

4. Legal Considerations:

When a parenting plan is made part of the decree, it becomes an order of the court. A parent who refuses to follow the parenting plan risks being held in contempt of court. (See C.R.C.P. 107). That is why it is imperative to ensure that your summer plans comply with your specific parenting plan. Review the requirements for notice and travel outlined in your agreement. Always consult with a family law attorney if you anticipate needing changes to your custody agreement.

5. What to Do If the Other Parent Just Won’t Cooperate:

Contempt

Colorado provides several options if the other parent refuses to follow the court-ordered parenting plan. As previously mentioned, parents who disobey a court order can be held in contempt by a court. Sanctions for contempt can be draconian, including the payment of attorney fees, fines, or even jail time. 

Motions Concerning Parenting Time Disputes

Additionally, either parent may file a verified motion with the court alleging that the other parent has not complied with the parenting time order and requesting relief. (See C.R.S. § 14-10-129.5). The court must review and enter an order within 35 days of the filing of motion under this statute.  Upon reviewing the motion and corresponding responses, the court may either deny the motion, schedule a hearing after notifying both parties, or direct the parties to pursue mediation and report back within 63 days. If a hearing is deemed necessary and it is determined that a parent has failed to adhere to the established parenting time order, the court is empowered to enforce additional rulings to safeguard the child’s best interests.

Conclusion:

Successfully navigating summer break as a divorced parent in Colorado involves meticulous planning and a solid understanding of your legal obligations in your parenting plan. However, with early, proactive communication, planning, and patience, you and the other parent can help ensure a more relaxing and fulfilling summer break for you and your children.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Each legal situation is unique, and laws and regulations may change frequently. Readers are encouraged to consult a qualified family law attorney to discuss specific legal issues or concerns. This article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Ascent Legal Group, LLC. If you are facing legal challenges related to family law or need guidance specific to Colorado statutes, please call Ascent Legal Group at (719) 256-0067 for a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney.