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What is a parenting plan?

In Colorado, parents have to submit a parenting plan when they are going through the divorce process. This plan can be filled out jointly, or if a mutual agreement can't be reached, a judge will make the decision on parental rights.

A parenting plan includes several important decisions that fall into two main categories: decision-making and actual parenting time. Both parties will need to agree on which parent should make decisions for which aspects of a child's life, such as education or health, or if those decisions should be made jointly. You also need to discuss and agree upon how often each of you will see the children and when you will spend time with them.

What if we can't agree?

Though the process can move more quickly if both parties can agree on a plan outside of court, it is understandable that many divorcing couples will have differing views on what should be done. In cases where an agreement can't be reached jointly, a judge will lay out the terms of parenting time according to the children's best interests.

A "child's best interest" considers many factors about you and your ex-spouse's ability to raise the child, such as time at work and income, and what conditions provide the child with the most stable and healthy environment. While this could apply to situations of substance abuse or domestic violence, it can also apply to less drastic circumstances in which the child is not necessarily in danger but would still be negatively impacted by the environment.

For example, if there is a large distance between the parents' living spaces that makes it difficult to visit both parents often, exchanges of the children may be less frequent or parenting time could be split unevenly to prevent the child from constantly switching homes or moving schools.

Decision-making power is usually decided based on how well and amicably you are able to communicate with your ex-spouse. If you and your ex-spouse seem unlikely to reach agreements in the future, a judge probably wouldn't award joint decision-making on all aspects of the children's lives. The judge may also consider how you made agreements during your marriage as well.

In the end, the parenting plan should be centered on what is deemed best for the children. Whether you can agree on a parenting plan with each other or not, an experienced attorney can assist with making the process go smoothly and making sure you receive the time with your children and parental rights you deserve.

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