In Colorado, traditionally visitation and child custody are determined through the Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (APR). An APR is used when parents are divorcing, were never married, or in the rare cases when parents are married but are not divorcing and need orders concerning their children. The APR will address the two biggest areas of visitation and custody: decision-making authority and parenting time. If you are a parent or guardian of a child in Colorado and need clarity on your rights and responsibilities regarding your child, an APR action is usually essential for a variety of reasons.
Establishing Your Parenting Time
Parenting time, as the name suggests, establishes whom the child is with on designated dates and times. It includes daily visitation schedules, the pick-up and drop-off arrangements, and the vacation and holiday schedule. When you have your parenting time set on paper, it gives you the right to return to court and enforce those days and times if the other parent isn’t cooperating. It also eliminates confusion about schedules and provides your children with stability in the form of a more set routine. A stable routine for your child is important and will lessen the stress of the situation for everyone involved, and you will want to protect your right to see your child, so an APR action is often the best route to take.
If you and your co-parent agree to a parenting time schedule on your own, with a mediator and/or with the help of an attorney, the court will usually approve it. If you’re unable to do so, the court will make the decisions for you using what it deems to be in the “best interest of the child.” To determine what that is, the court will consider many factors, including:
- Each parent’s wishes.
- The wishes of the child if the court finds him or her to be able to properly express his or her independent preferences.
- How well the child is adjusted to his or her school, community and home.
- The physical and mental health of everyone involved.
- The ability of each parent to encourage the child to engage in contact and share love and affection with the other parent.
- The past behavior of each parent toward to the child.
- Where each parent lives, for logistical reasons.
- Whether either parent has had past incidents of spousal or child abuse.
- How well each parent can put their child’s needs in front of their own.
Know Your Decision-Making Rights
In an APR action, decision-making establishes how major choices – such as decisions regarding extracurricular activities, education, religion and medical treatment – are made. It will determine which person has the right to make these decisions for the child. In this process, the court may grant one parent the right to make the decisions on his or her own or require that they make the decisions together. In such cases, the court will weigh the following factors:
- Whether there is evidence that the parents can make decisions together.
- The past involvement level each parent has with the child.
- Whether joint decision-making would encourage more contact between the child and both parents.
- Whether either parent has a past incident of spousal or child abuse. No decision-making authority will be granted to a parent who has a credible instance of child abuse. If one parent has a credible instance of spousal abuse, he or she may still receive decision-making authority if the court finds the parents can still make shared decisions without any posing any danger to the abused parent or the child.
Being able to make decisions for your child is a big part of being a parent, so it’s only natural to want to decide and protect that authority. Having your say in his or her upbringing will play a crucial part in your role as a parent.
An APR action can also address child support, which is a continuing financial obligation that is meant to cover the child’s expenses. While there are guidelines set for child support, this aspect of an APR can become even more complicated for high-income parents and children with extraordinary expenses, such as those who attend private schools. Since child support will impact your finances for years to come, it is a good idea to speak to an experienced attorney about your case.
The Allocation of Parenting Responsibilities establishes many important aspects of parenting in a legal sense, so it’s not a process to be taken lightly or without legal help. It will determine many important factors, such as your rights to make crucial decisions for and about your child, and the time you’re legally given to spend with him or her.
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