Many child custody orders do not change until the children are of legal age, but some parents find the need to make a few modifications over the years. In some cases, for instance, the original order no longer works when the children reach a certain age; others involve the kids wishing to live with the other parent.
There are different reasons behind requests for modifications. Whatever yours is, it is essential to know your rights before signing off and binding yourself legally to anything. Consider the following questions:
I want to modify legal custody. How can I do it?
Parental responsibility for making significant decisions for the children is modifiable according to C.R.S 14-10-131. Modification standards over legal custody (whether from joint to sole or vice versa) mainly depend on the children’s best interests. Colorado’s statute decides on what those best interests constitute based on several factors.
One party will have to prove the risks of emotional impairment or physical danger if the existing custody arrangements continue, for example. Extreme circumstances that lack tangible evidence (e.g., mental health issues and substance abuse) will require more assistance in gathering proof.
What about the decision-making role?
CO statutes also allow custody modification when one parent has given up their role in making decisions. During these instances, the other parent has bowed out of the picture or permit their ex-spouse to decide the arrangements for a significant amount of time.
The court can also modify legal custody and decision making when there are changes to parenting time. Take for example a situation where the children have lived with their mother who has sole custody and only see their father on court-granted weekend visits. Modifications would be appropriate if the children decide to live with the non-sole custody parent in the future.
In that example, the kids can live with their father, but the mother still has the sole decision-making power.
Can my ex-partner modify the custody arrangements whenever they want?
According to C.R.S. 14-10-129, parents can only request for visitation modifications (which also covers changes in primary residences) two years after filing for a similar motion. Regardless of the prior motion’s outcome, parents must still wait for two years before they can file another one.
“In Colorado, if your ex-spouse files for a new motion within that waiting period, the court recommends requesting its immediate disposal.”
-Michael A. Hug, Attorney at Law
Are there any exceptions to this rule?
Parents can only file within the two-year waiting period if there are allegations of physical or emotional abuse. Ex-spouses can also lose custody if they ignore or enable abusive situations. The courts will immediately allow filing for modification if the filing parent can prove the other party is compromising the best interests of their children.
Filing for Modification: Your Next Step
Once the court recognizes the basis for your child custody modification, you are free to file a petition or motion to modify custody. Visit the Colorado Judicial Branch’s website and look for the “Forms” tab. All forms are available in PDF and Word files. You can fill these online and print them out or print first and then write.
After filing for a modification, the case will reopen, and the following procedures will resemble the initial child custody process.
Modifying child custody will require substantial proof and well-crafted arguments to convince the court to overturn a prior decision. Our experienced team is here to help you with that.