The Colorado courts favor equal involvement between children and both parents whenever possible. Children need strong bonds with both father and mother, and they benefit from the love, protection, and wisdom that parents give to their own children. Additionally, stronger communities are built when children have financial support from both parents. This philosophy is reflected in the change in terminology from "child custody" to "parenting time."
When designing a parenting plan, it is wise to work with an experienced mediator who will bring up senarios that you may not have considered, along with options for designing a plan that will meet the needs of not only the parents, but also the children.
It is common to overlook such things as
- College expense provisions
- Allocation of big ticket expenses such as cell phones, cars for children to drive, and car insurance for a youthful driver
- Built-in modifications for newborn and infant parenting time
- Relocation to a new geographical area, either in Colorado or outside of the state
- How parenting time is affected by work requirements (swing and graveyard shifts, travel), parenting time with an alternate provider such as a step parent or grand parent when the biological parent is not available, first right of refusal, etc.
- Remarriage and the parenting role of the new spouse
- Tax dependent deductions and child care credits
If your child is an infant, s/he may need a primary caretaker to bond with in the early years. A comprehensive parenting plan designed with a mediator often includes built-in modifications that step-up time between both parents' homes when the child is older (usually around 30 months.)
The State of Colorado publishes a very basic Parenting Plan that addresses the most basic provisions. It is a good tool to begin with, but is not comprehensive, leaving out many important agreements that will keep couples from having disagreements in the future.
Colorado courts order mediation in vitually every situation where a divorce is filed or a motion to modify an existing parenting plan or child support is being requested, when there are outstanding issues that have not been agreed to. This is true whether the parties have an attorney or are pro se (representing themselves).
Mediation opens the lines of communication in a safe and confidential environment. When couples wish to exit the marriage and hope to remain on good working terms in the future, mediation can address all of the necessary paperwork for a common divorce and can often eliminate the need for attorneys and legal fees. Mediation costs a fraction of the price of litigation.