A Colorado Parenting Plan contains all details relating to matters of shared custody, including:
- Parenting time schedule
- Decision making
- Child support
- And any other matters that may need to be addressed
As all families are unique, one form of parenting plan will not meet the needs of every family. The best parenting plan will be well developed and custom tailored to the individuals involved. Some parenting plans incorporate terms that will apply far into the future, as when a child emancipates into adulthood. Other parenting plans only plan one or two years out.
Even when parents believe they will always be able to agree in the future with the other parent on child custody issues, a detailed parenting plan should be crafted to address all important issues in the event that the parties cannot agree on an important matter in the future. As the parenting plan is a document which memorializes the agreements the parties have made and thus expresses what each parent can insist upon, it must be adhered to until the Court modifies the parenting plan.
A parenting plan can be modified whenever such a modification would be in the best interests of the children. While the parents may agree to minor changes, any major change or ongoing changes may need to be filed with the Court.
Parenting Time Schedule
The schedule by which the children will spend time with each parent should be detailed in every parenting plan. The schedule can be the same each week year round or it can be detailed and dynamic depending on the needs of the children and parents. Provisions can be included for sharing holidays, special occasions, make up parenting time should a visit be missed, and vacation parenting time.
Minor day to day decisions are usually made by the parent exercising parenting time without the input of the other parent.
Major decisions, such as school attendance, healthcare, and spiritual upbringing are major decisions that may require both parents to agree if decision making is joint. When one parent has sole decision making, that parent may make the final determination on major decisions after considering the input of the other parent.
Provisions can be included in the parenting plan when parents share joint decision making and cannot agree on an major decision. These provisions will help to facilitate agreements between the parents through their participation in alternative dispute resolution such as mediation or require the parents to seek the advice of an expert who is an expert on the disputed matter.
In Colorado, Child support calculations are based largely on the incomes of the parents and the scheduled number of overnights each parent is to enjoy. Child support is calculated on a monthly basis, and child support payments can be calendared on a designated day each month or multiple times per month when partial payments are needed.
While some recurring and consistent monthly expenses such as the child’s health insurance premium can be included in the child support calculation, other child expenses are to be reimbursed in proportion to the incomes of the parents. Reimbursable child expenses can be defined in the parenting plan and the terms of reimbursement should be made clear in regards to when a request for reimbursement shall be made and how long after the request the expense is to be remitted.
The IRS child dependency exemption should be alternated in proportion to the income ratios of the parties and the specific years each parent may claim the exemption can be detailed in the parenting plan.
Other matters that may need to be addressed
Exchanges – Where will exchanges take place and who will be responsible? Will the parent completing parenting time deliver the children, or will the other parent pick them up? Is it feasible to meet in the middle during exchanges or will this be more challenging than helpful?
Travel – Provisions may include timelines for advance notice, itineraries, and contact information.
Telephone / video conferencing access – provisions can address whether contact should be scheduled or allowed freely; whether there should be limitations on frequency or duration.
Access to Child’s Information – most parents should have access to their children’s medical and educational records, and a properly drafted parenting plan can function as a release for each parent.
Emergencies – when an emergency arises each parent should take appropriate action to ensure the safety of the child, and a well drafted parenting plan will contain provisions for informing the other parent.
Service Providers – when a child’s counselor or primary care physician changes, provisions can be detailed for the selection of new providers.
Notification of Problems – when a child gets in trouble at school or elsewhere, each parent should be notified; a parenting plan can require the sharing of such information within a specified amount of time.
Choice of Schools – where children are to attend school can be designated in a parenting plan, but the parenting plan need not designate such details, as it could be decided in the future.
Participation in Educational and Extracurricular Activities – a parenting plan can designate whether both parents should be able to attend events regardless of whose parenting time occurs during the event, or it may designate when one parent should not attend certain activities.
General Welfare – Anything can be addressed if it has an impact on the child, including issues such as whether one or both parents should abstain from consuming alcohol during and before their parenting time, or whether new romantic partners should spend the night when the child is sleeping in the home.
Change of Address or Contact Information – When moving, changing phone numbers or email addresses, the other parent should be provided this information promptly.
Co-operation – Consistency between households is important, especially for young children. Parents can agree to share anything from bedtimes to discipline.
Communications – How parents communicate with each other can be free or specified. Ensuring parents share relevant details in general, and specific details when the children are exchanged, can be required at a specified frequency and through a mode of communication. While email and telephone are most common, some people love or hate texting. Decide what works for you and define it in the parenting plan.
Right of First Refusal – When one parent requires child care, a provision can be included where the parent needing care must first ask the other parent if they could provide the care before turning to other options.
Make up Parenting Time – When a parenting visit is missed for whatever reason, make up parenting time can be agreed upon that will detail when and how the missed visit is to be made up.
Our Colorado family law attorneys can create a parenting plan tailored to the specifics of you and your family that will help avoid problems in the future. Contact us today to arrange a meeting with us to discuss your family law needs.