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When a child’s parents are separated, one parent often spends more time handling the majority of parenting duties simply because of the demands of daily life. This parent is often known as the “primary care” parent. However, when both parents have joint legal custody, the primary care parent cannot make major decisions without the agreement of the other parent. In Colorado law, the major decisions are considered ones that relate to medical care, mental health, and educational or spiritual needs.
For example, this means that a parent cannot suddenly decide to pull a child from school and home school instead unless he or she has come to an agreement with the other parent. The same applies to changing a child’s religion, putting a child into therapy, or having them undergo an elective medical procedure. A parent can consent to necessary medical treatment on his or her own, however.
It is worth noting that emergency situations do fall outside of the custody laws on joint decision-making. Any time the welfare of the child is in serious question and a fast decision is necessary, the custody laws in Colorado allow for unilateral decision-making to be carried out by one parent.
It is quite tough for one parent to be a part of major decisions when he or she does not have enough information available about the children. Family laws in Colorado give the parents the right to get information about their child, such as medical and school records. Naturally, if one parent does not know who is providing services to his or her child, this is a right that can be hard to enforce. A solid parenting plan, created with the help of an experienced child custody attorney, should mandate parents provide each other with the information for any third party who provides therapeutic, medical, educational or other services to the child(ren). The plan should also require that each parent will execute any forms that are needed for the release of information to the other parent.
Keeping disputes to the absolute minimum when it comes to child custody is best for everyone involved, particularly the child(ren). Working with a child custody lawyer, you can create a parenting plan that addresses some of the potential decision-making issue that could arise in the future. For example, you determine what religion your child will practice and whether they will go to private or public school in the plan. You can also define other issues as major that are not covered under Colorado law, so that these decisions require input from both parents. Examples include access to any firearms, body piercing and body art, the minimum age for the child to start driving, and other areas of concern.
The idea is to include decisions that you feel may provoke discord between you and your co-parent in the future. When you have a comprehensive parenting plan in place, you will be better equipped to avoid extended battles and disagreements going forward.
One other area that your custody attorney should cover in your parenting plan is dispute resolution. You can work a resolution process into your plan so you do not need to return to court every time you disagree about a decision. You can have a required consultation, but it should give one parent the right to make an ultimate decision when you disagree or require that a third party be brought in to act as a coordinator, mediator or arbitrator. It is best for your children and everyone else involved if disagreements are not allowed to turn into lengthy court battles.
Burnham Law has an experienced team ready to help you with your child custody case. The Colorado family law system can be complex, so navigating it without the help of a seasoned custody lawyer can be very difficult. Contact us today so we can evaluate your case and protect your interests.