Visitation is generally defined as the rights of a non-custodial parent to see his or her child. It is a plan that describes how parents will share time with their children.
In Colorado, the state court has abandoned the use of "custody" and "visitation," and instead use the words "parenting responsibilities" and "parenting time."
In any situation where there is a parenting responsibility (or custody order), both parents are entitled to "reasonable" parenting time. According to the book Connecting With Your Kids, published by The Colorado Foundation for Families and Children, reasonable parenting time includes both the amount and pattern of time that work for the child and the parent.
Equal parenting time
Colorado judges tend to start with the idea that parents should be equal unless it's shown to be against the child's best interests. Other exceptions also apply, depending on practicality and the specific needs of each family. Parents in Colorado are encouraged to make their own schedules, as opposed to one created by the court.
- Week-on, Week-off, or 7-7 split, allows children to spend a week at a time with each parent. It's used more with older children who can easily adjust to spending a week away from one parent.
- 2-5-5-2 Split, or 2-2-3 split, give one parent every Monday and Tuesday night and the other parent every Wednesday and Thursday night. Then the parents alternate a long weekend, including Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights. This schedule allows one parent five days, while the other parent has two, and when the schedule flips, the first parent has two days, and the other has five. It is most common with younger children.
The 2-5-5-2 schedule has two advantages over Week-on, Week-off. First, it minimizes the time children spend away from one parent to five days instead of seven. And second, it is more predictable in that a parent knows that he or she has the kids every Monday and Tuesday, so he or she is fully responsible for child activities on those nights every week.
While these are the two most common arrangements, parents may also create their own plans. Some may decide to rotate the schedule every two weeks or even monthly if a judge deems it in the child's best interest. An open-ended or flexible agreement – especially if parents live within a reasonable distance of each other – may benefit a family where busy kids and parents with inconsistent work schedules.
And some parents may rely on the "every other weekend" schedule in which children live with one parent primarily during the school week, and the other parent will typically have 2-3 weekends per month.
In all cases, a plan must include arrangements for vacations and special events and occasions, such as birthdays, weddings, and graduations.
In cases where the court finds one of the parents is not suited for extended alone time with the child for a multitude of case-by-case reasons, it can order supervised visitation. Supervised visitation involves having a neutral third person, such as a family member, friend, or paid professional, present during that parent's visit.
Colorado law also allows grandparents the right to request visitation. In addition to being in the best interests of the child, the court considers requests in the following situations:
- If the child's parents have divorced, have had their marriage annulled, or have been legally separated
- If legal custody has been given to a third party, or someone other than a parent
- If the grandparent is the parent of a deceased parent
In rare cases, a court may order no visitation or revoke visitation if it finds there has been physical, sexual, or emotional abuse of the child or in cases where the child witnessed domestic violence against one of the parents.
The Colorado Judicial Branch offers general information and examples of many of the forms you will need when it comes to filing for the allocation of parental responsibilities. However, as the web site notes, these documents are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice about your case. If you choose to represent yourself in court, you will be bound by the same rules and procedures as an attorney.
If you would like to consult with a family court lawyer, contact the local bar association in your area for more information or use our directory to search for a legal professional in your area.
A co-parenting communication service can be a valuable way to make custody plans and visitation schedules more efficient.