Parenting Time Exchanges and COVID
Many parents are seeing their court-ordered and agreed-upon parenting time schedules and exchanges impacted by COVID. This could be due to the safety concerns of a parent or stay at home orders. The bottom line is that a court order governs, unless modified, however there are safety exceptions. No parent is expected to endanger his or her child to comply with a court order when circumstances substantially change. What is a sufficient safety concern to justify a parenting time change is fact-based. If a parent anticipates the need for a modification of the court order, he or she may submit a Motion To Modify to the Court.
COVID reports occupy the focus of many as we read news reports each day. The world as we know it is rapidly changing. The Center For Disease Control has recommended social distancing and the State of Colorado is now under a stay at home order.Decision-Making Responsibility
Decision making responsibility for children is often shared between parents. This means that both parents must consult with each other on important matters involving the children. These decisions include such matters as health, education and religion. COVID potentially impacts the important decision-making are of health. Going on a bike ride with children in an open area at a six-foot distance from others is different than gathering in large groups of people who are in close proximity to each other.Child Endangerment
Establishing child endangerment is a high bar. If a parent believes that the other is endangering the child then a parent has two court options. One option is to request a modification of the allocation of parental responsibilities, AKA child custody, to require supervised parenting time. This would result in one parent spending time with the children only in supervised settings, whether at a supervision center or under the observation of a mutually-agreed upon third party.
The other court option is to request a modification of decision-making responsibility to grant sole decision-making authority to one parent. This would allow the parent with sole decision-making authority to unilaterally make important decisions for the child, to include those pertaining to the health and general welfare of the child.Parenting Time Modification
The legal standard for a modification of parenting time is codified in Section 14-10-129(1)(a)(I) of the Colorado Revised Statutes and gives courts the authority to modify a parenting time order when the modification would be in the best interests of the child. However, for supervised visitation or sole decision-making authority, the higher standard of child endangerment must be shown.
A Court may modify decision-making responsibility if it finds that retention of the allocation of decision-making responsibility would endanger the child’s physical health or significantly impair a child’s emotional development, and the harm likely to be caused by the change in environment of the child is outweighed by the advantage of the change to the child. The parent asking for the change must present evidence to justify it.Modification Process
When the legal standard is the best interests of the child for allocation of parental responsibilities, the moving party submits a motion for modification and supporting affidavit letting the court know why a change should be made.
In cases where the legal standard is endangerment, if the moving party initially states sufficient grounds for child endangerment, the Court issues an order to show cause to the other parent to attend a hearing for that parent to show why the requested modification should not be granted. Copies of any documents filed with the court must always be provided to the opposing party. An attorney can assist in filing the correct paperwork and representation at any necessary proceeding.
If you have questions about a child support modification, contact Janko Family Law for a free case assessment to let you know what your legal options are and what assistance we might be able to provide to help you resolve the issue and put it behind you. We can be contacted at 720-780-0115.