What is Co-Parenting?
When filing for legal separation or divorce with children in the marriage, you are required to complete a parenting plan that outlines the following information:
- Allocation of parenting responsibilities and decision-making
- Parenting time and scheduling for the school year and summer, including transportation and drop-off/pickup arrangements
- Holiday planning
- Relocation plans
- Financial Obligations and child support agreements
- Medical, dental, vision and mental health financial agreements
- School, sports and extracurricular financial agreements
- Child tax exemption, as only one parent may claim a deduction for each child on his or her income tax return
While not specific to Colorado, we recommend reviewing these guidelines before completing your plan to keep in mind age appropriate considerations in custody scheduling.
If you separate quickly, you may need to create a temporary Parenting Plan at first to make sure you and your ex-spouse are in agreement for what to do in case of an emergency. Over time, the two of you will complete a Permanent Parenting Plan to submit to a judge, though it should be reviewed and updated regularly to ensure that all of the information is correct.
Parenting Time C.R.S. 14-10-124(1.5)(a) outlines the criteria to determine whether a parenting schedule is in a child’s best interests:
- The wishes of the child’s parents;
- The wishes of the child, if sufficiently mature (typically starts about 12 or so),
- The relationship between the child, the parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
- The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability alone shall not be a basis to deny or restrict parenting time;
- The ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party;
- Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support;
- The physical proximity of the parties to each other;
- Whether a party has been a perpetrator of child abuse or neglect;
- Whether a party has been a perpetrator of spouse abuse;
- The ability of each party to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs
Decision-Making C.R.S. 14-10-124(1.5)(b) outlines additional criteria, in addition to the criteria outlined above, for a court to consider when determining parental decision-making responsibility:
- Credible evidence of the ability of the parties to cooperate and to make decisions jointly;
- Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support that would indicate an ability as mutual decision makers to provide a positive and nourishing relationship with the child;
- Whether an allocation of mutual decision-making responsibility will promote more frequent or continuing contact between the child and each of the parties;
- A perpetrator of child abuse or neglect may not have decision-making over the other’s objection;
- A perpetrator of spousal abuse may not have decision-making over the other’s objection, unless the court finds that the parties are able to make shared decisions about their children without physical confrontation and in a place and manner that is not a danger to the abused party or the child.
Irrelevant Considerations C.R.S. 14-10-124 prohibits courts from considering the following in determining the best interests of a child:
- Conduct which does not affect a party’s relationship with the child (since Colorado has no-fault divorce, courts don’t want custody fights to be an excuse to bring in irrelevant allegations, such as adultery).
- Gender of the parties.
- A request for genetic testing.
- A parent leaving the home due to the other’s spousal abuse.
Tactics to Get to Co-Parenting
Co-parenting means that both parents play an active role in their children’s day to day lives. The key to the success of co-parenting arrangements is how well the parents work together to make the kids a shared priority. What works best for some single parents may not work well for others. Talk with other single parents for ideas. Then decide on the best parenting arrangement for you, your former spouse and your children. Co-parenting will not work if there is a history of addiction, family violence or other circumstance that would limit a parent’s ability to act safely and responsibly as a single parent. Studies show that the many benefits of successful co-parenting include:
- Both parents and children can learn effective ways to communicate.
- Both parents recognize and respond to their children’s needs.
- Children develop feelings of stability.
- Children continue relationships with both parents.
- Children are less likely to feel divided loyalties, abandoned, or that they have to meet the social and emotional needs of their parents.
Parents must decide what aspects of parenting to share. This often depends on custody arrangements and the ability to discuss issues with a former spouse without conflict and in a productive way. Consider together:
- What decisions need to be made together
- How decisions will be made
- How and when you will communicate your ex-spouse
- How you will arrange and share schedules
- Who will arrange caregiving when neither parent is available
- How you will handle discipline consistently in both households
- What will happen in an emergency
Children can adjust to a variety of living patterns, including living in two homes. How well children adjust depends on whether parents can minimize their conflicts, avoid arguing in front of and through their kids, and maintain and shared focus on their children’s needs. When parents disagree, tell the children that there will be some separate rules in each home. It may be frustrating and it may take time and further discussions as parents before the details are consistently applied, above all remember that your children need both of you to be a strong, positive influence in their lives.
External Resources for High Conflict Co Parenting Situations
Sometimes co-parenting isn’t possible. In situations where there is no way to establish co-parenting plans, it’s important to have access to support and resources to help. We recommend reviewing the Kids 24/7 database of recommended professionals.
Taking Care of Yourself while Co-Parenting
In order to be the best parent you can be take care of yourself. Your own needs have to be met so that you have the physical and emotional resources to be a good parent.
For more information and resources around co-parenting, explore the co-parenting resources under Getting Ready for Divorce.