Can you Modify Child Custody?

Life is always changing, sometimes your parenting time needs to change too. Modifying child custody is generally always an option, except for when a few limitations may apply. The controlling Colorado statute to modify custody is C.R.S. 14-10-129 “Modifying Parenting Time.” This statute sets forth when it is appropriate or inappropriate to modify parenting time. The Court recognizes different modifications such as general modifications, substantial modifications, relocations, and a restricting a parent’s parenting time.

General Modification of Parenting Time

Generally the Court may modify a parenting time order whenever it would serve the best interest of the child. Remember, the best interest of the child standard is what helps the court determine child custody for the initial parenting plan. Check out our blog article about the Best Interests. A general modification can involve changes to a parenting time such as rearranging the actual parenting time schedule.

Substantial Modification of Parenting Time

Sometimes, a parenting time order will allocate the majority of parenting time to one parent. If a parent wishes to change the parent with whom the child resides with the majority of time, this motion would be considered a substantial modification. If a parent chooses to file a motion to substantially modify parenting time, neither parent can move to modify parenting time within two years after the determination of the substantial modification motion. What that means is, regardless of the outcome of a substantial modification motion, the Court will not allow another motion to modify parenting time within that two year period.

Now of course, there is always an exception to the exception! The Court will hear a subsequent motion to modify parenting time, if and only if, the court decides the child’s present environment may endanger the child’s physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development.

The last part to know about a substantial modification of parenting time, is the standard that the Court will use. If there is no endangerment, and it is a simple, substantial modification, “the Court must find upon the basis of facts that have arisen since the prior decree, or that were unknown to the court at the time of the prior decree, that have changed the circumstances of the child or the party that make it necessary to serve the best interest of the child.”

Again, we have another exception. The Court will apply this standard unless the case falls under three exceptions: (1) the parents agree to the modification, (2) the child has been integrated into the family of the moving party with the consent of the other parent, or (3) a request for relocation is involved.

Relocation

Another way parenting time is modified is through a relocation of the minor child. Please see our blog that goes into detail regarding relocations. In addition to applying the best interest standard, the Court will also use the relocation factors to determine if the modification is appropriate. The factors are listed under C.R.S. 14-10-129(2)(c) and include factors such as why a relocation would be appropriate for the child and how the move would impact the child.

Restriction of Parenting Time

This is the most serious of the modifications of parenting time. This rule is set forth in C.R.S. 14-10-129(4). If a parent wishes to restrict the other parent’s parenting time, they must prove that that the child is “in imminent physical or emotional danger due to the parenting time or contact by the parent.” These are special cases because the Court requires these motions to be heard within 14 days of filing. If the Court accepts the motion and sets the issue for hearing, the court automatically modifies and restricts the parenting time of the accused party until the hearing is held and a more detailed determination is made.

As stated, modifying parenting time is generally always an option. However, if you are planning on substantially modifying parenting time, relocating with your child, or restricting parenting time be prepared for a more in depth process.

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