Co-parenting with your ex can be challenging, even when the relationship breakdown is well in the past and there is no animosity between you. Disputes and misunderstandings can arise between even the most amiable couples, so it is not surprising that co-parenting decrees can be violated, causing emotional turmoil, guilt and frustration.
Co-parenting law in Colorado
The state of Colorado prioritizes stability and consistency in every child’s life, especially during and after divorce. Co-parenting decrees are issued to govern the terms of the agreement and the shared responsibilities that the parents will assume after the formal dissolution of their relationship.
These court-ordered documents outline specific terms and conditions , including where the child will reside for the majority of their time, when and for how long periods of visitation with their other parent will last, how decisions related to their care and upbringing will be made, and the level of financial support that each parent will take on.
Co-parenting agreements are legally binding, and if they are violated, the consequences can be severe.
Why co-parenting agreements may be breached
There are many reasons a co-parenting agreement may be breached. Here is a look at some of the most common reasons.
An ambiguous or poorly written co-parenting agreement can contribute to misunderstandings and result in unintentional breaches of the terms and conditions of the agreement. It is vital that these documents are drafted by a legal professional and are clear, detailed and comprehensive.
In an otherwise amicable co-parenting relationship, a violation of a court-ordered decree may result from an emergency at work or a cell phone network disruption. These temporary breaches cannot be predicted, and parents should try not to apportion blame but rather work together to try to find a mutually acceptable solution if such an event occurs.
Unfortunately, many violations to co-parenting decrees result from ineffective communication between the co-parents, leading to misunderstandings, disputes and confusion. It is essential that co-parents engage in open and honest conversations for the benefit of their children.
Introducing a new partner can disrupt the established dynamics of a comfortable co-parenting situation. Integrating a new relationship into a child’s life must be handled delicately and at their speed. The other parent must be kept informed of such developments to ensure that they are comfortable with the amount and type of visitation that their child will have with their ex’s new partner, particularly when the relationship is in its early stages.
Deliberate refusal to follow court orders
The most challenging situation to overcome relates to an individual who deliberately refuses to comply with the court-ordered schedule of visitation. Overcoming this situation requires tailored legal advice from a family law attorney, who will be able to advise based on the specifics of the situation.
Legal consequences for violating a co-parenting decree
If a parent repeatedly fails to comply with the terms of their co-parenting agreement, the other parent is entitled to take legal action to modify or suspend the agreement and assume full parental responsibility for their child.
The court will usually file a motion for contempt  when such a case is brought before it, which could result in the delinquent parent being fined or one or both parties being referred to counseling. Only when all attempts to resolve the situation amicably have failed will a custody agreement be modified or suspended.
Every custody case is unique and the outcome will differ based on the specific circumstances surrounding the violation.
How to modify a co-parenting agreement
If either or both parents decide that a modification to their existing co-parenting decree is necessary or beneficial, they must follow the legal procedures for doing so, explaining why they wish to enact a modification and demonstrating that doing so is in the child’s best interests.
The court will consider whether a substantial change in circumstances exists that could affect the child’s wellbeing, such as a change in the primary carer’s working pattern or an upcoming relocation. This information will be considered during the decision-making process
How to prevent co-parenting issues from occurring
Prevention is always better than cure, so co-parents should work together to minimize the likelihood of violations from occurring. This includes communicating effectively and regularly, especially when either parent wishes to make a change to an agreed period of visitation or an upcoming change in circumstances may require changes to be formalized.
If a conflict arises, the co-parents may wish to attend mediation prior to launching legal action. Mediation is not only effective in the vast majority of cases but is also more affordable. Taking a collaborative approach to resolving disputes will also demonstrate a commitment to the child’s wellbeing if the case later goes to court.
For assistance establishing, modifying or suspending a custody arrangement, contact the experienced team at Lewis & Matthews, P.C. today. We will work with you to achieve a stable and supportive environment for your children post-divorce.