Conflict in Colorado families does not automatically end after the Allocation of Parental Responsibilities is entered. Sometimes, parents who have gone through a divorce or custody battle find their former spouse or partner, or even their teenage child, are simply unwilling to do what the order says. But a custodial parent doesn’t have the final say on whether you see your son or daughter. Find out what to do if your parenting time is denied.
This blog post will review Colorado laws around the denial of parenting time and other violations of parental responsibility orders. It will discuss what options you have to enforce the court’s orders, and what you can do to strengthen your case if your parenting time is denied.
The entry of a Colorado Allocation of Parental Responsibility signals the end of a divorce or custody matter, but that doesn’t mean you are done dealing with your former spouse or partner. Even after the case is closed, you will have to continue to manage parenting exchanges, holidays, and summer vacation schedules. And that doesn’t always go according to the plan on paper. How you respond depends in part on why your parenting time is being denied.
When Parenting Time is Denied Out of Habit
When a divorce or custody battle was heated, the parties often often get into the habit of making things hard for each other. Those habits can continue after the case is over. This type of parenting denial can take many forms, including:
- Not showing up at designated parenting time exchanges
- Scheduling appointments during the other parent’s visitation
- Refusing to turn over the child
- Claiming the child is too sick for a visit
- Cutting of the child’s access to phones and computers, blocking telephone or electronic parenting time
- “Forgetting” holiday schedules or making plans for the other parent’s holiday
- Cutting off contact altogether
One or two missed visits may not be a big deal. Life happens and sometimes you need to be flexible. As long as the other parent is willing to make up the missed time, you may not need to take formal action.
But when parenting time is denied out of habit, or you have been denied access to your children for an extended period of time, you may need to ask the court to step in and enforce parenting time. A motion to enforce or modify an existing allocation of parental responsibility order can alert the court that there is a problem, and get the judge’s help in solving it. At a hearing, or after successful mediation, the court may enter an order:
- Clarifying the existing order or adding terms and conditions to parenting time
- Modifying the existing order based on your child’s best interests
- Scheduling makeup parenting time of the same type and length as you have been denied, or at the time and place of your choosing as the denied parent
- Requiring either or both parents to take parenting classes (at the non-complying party’s expense)
- Referring the parties and children to family counseling (at the non-complying party’s expense)
- Requiring the non-complying party to put up money (post a bond) to ensure future parenting time happens
- Ordering the non-complying party to pay a fine of up to $100 per time parenting time is denied
- Holding the non-complying party in contempt and imposing added fines or jail time
The more serious the parenting time denial, the more severe the consequences can be for the non-complying party. The Colorado parenting time enforcement statute also requires the non-complying parent to pay your attorney fees, costs, and expenses, if he or she is found to be violating the order. However, if you file a motion to enforce parenting time and lose, it may be you footing the bill for both parties’ lawyers.
When Parenting Time Denials are Tied to Child Support
In other cases, when one parent falls behind on child support, the custodial parent will try to use parenting time as leverage. Under this argument, parents say if you don’t pay up, you don’t deserve to see your children.
The law couldn’t be more clear on this. Child support and parenting time are separate. A judge is not even allowed to condition makeup parenting time on the payment of support. There are ways a custodial parent can enforce an unpaid child support order. Denying you parenting time is not one of them.
When Teenagers Push Back Against Parenting Time
As your children get older, their schedules will get busier and, whether you like it or not, spending time with their parents may not always be their idea of a good time. It is up to both parents to encourage teenagers to spend time with their parents. You both should be doing your best to honor parenting time schedules even when there are other, more fun things going on.
However, Colorado family law courts will start to consider a child’s wishes when it comes to custody or visitation around the age of 14. By age 16 and 17, judges will give more weight to a child’s preference in any motion to modify parenting time. That isn’t to say that a parent can simply change the order because a teenager doesn’t want to spend time with you. But it does mean that if a child has a good, independent reason to want the custody arrangement to change, the court will consider it and you will have to do more to honor your child’s wishes.
When Your Former Spouse Claims Parenting Time Would be Dangerous
In the most severe cases, your parenting time may be denied if the other parent believes you pose a substantial danger to the physical or emotional health of your child. Colorado law does allow for a parent who has proof of danger to file a motion to restrict parenting time. This creates a formal process and an opportunity for you to come in and dispute the claims. It also requires the party denying parenting time to prove an imminent risk of harm, not just differences in parenting styles.
Even if a motion to restrict parenting time is granted, that doesn’t mean your parenting time is denied forever. Usually that denial will come with conditions and requirements to help you create a safe place for yourself and your child. This might include drug treatment, counseling, parenting classes, or supervised visitation, along with regular review hearings in front of the judge.
An allocation of parental responsibility can sometimes seem like a simple piece of paper. Your former spouse or partner may seem not to care what the schedule says and be all too willing to deny you parenting time. When that happens, you need an experienced family law attorney to help you take the matter back to court and get you the time you deserve with your children.
At Aviso Law, LLC, our child custody lawyers know that sometimes it takes more than a single order to keep you connected to your family. We know how to use Colorado law to modify and enforce the allocation of parenting time to protect your rights and your relationships with your children. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.