Unfortunately, separated parents often find themselves back in court after Permanent Orders for various reasons. Whether a parent might need more financial support for their child, a parent is not paying court-ordered child support, or a parent feels parenting time needs to change, Colorado has many mechanisms for allowing parties back into court to address their reasonable concerns in the best interests of the child.
Arguably the most important mechanism, however, allows parties to reclaim denied parenting time as easily and quickly as possible.
For pro se (without an attorney) parents who are just looking for a quick point in the right direction, Colorado provides instructions and template motions here (Colorado Court forms: JDF 1418I, JDF1418, JDF 1419):
Motions to Enforce, commonly known as Motions Concerning Parenting Time Disputes, which operate pursuant to Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-129.5, allow a parent to reclaim parenting time the other parent denied them. Put simply, C.R.S. 14-10-129.5 is contempt for lost parenting time. A primary difference is that it requires something contempt does not – it requires the party who denied your parenting time pay your attorney’s fees – assuming the Court makes specific findings.
Let’s get to that next in a breakdown of the statute and procedure…
C.R.S. 14-10-129.5, Disputes Concerning Parenting Time, allows a parent to motion the court and argue the other parent “is not complying with a parenting time order or schedule.” Your motion should state the specific instances and circumstances in which the party requesting the court’s help was denied parenting time.
Should the claims have merit, within 35 days, the court will either set the matter for hearing or set the matter for mediation. Mediation is a remedy where the parties must attempt to work out the differences, while a hearing allows the parties opportunity to prove the incidents did or did not happen and ask the court to grant some methods of relief. No attorney can tell you why the court ordered one way or the other. Just know that whichever is required, make a good faith effort and try to work the issue out – both of you. You will be co-parents for a long time.
If a parent is found to have denied the other parenting time, the court may provide the denied party with makeup parenting time, and the court may also convert the matter into a modification proceeding. If it were a simple issue of lost parenting time, the matter will likely conclude. If the matter shows deeper underlying issues that need to be addressed, a modification proceeding will provide the parties and court the time and tools necessary to tackle the underlying concerns.
Can the Court address more under C.R.S. 14-10-129.5?
Realistically, probably not. Contempt, a remedy we will explore in the new future, is used to address general non-compliance with a court’s orders, and C.R.S. 14-10-129.5 is typically used to address issues of noncompliance with the “parenting time order.” However, because C.R.S. 14-10-129.5 does provide the court the authority to address compliance with the “parenting time order,” it can be, and I have, argued portions of a parenting time order can be addressed in an enforcement proceeding.
Why would you want to do that? Well, to hopefully obtain attorney’s fees to cover the cost of the proceeding because, while attorney’s fees are mandatory in an enforcement proceeding, awards of attorney’s fees in a contempt proceeding are at the court’s discretion. It is important to recognize, however, that bringing an action pursuant to C.R.S. 14-10-129.5, alone, does not require you to be provided attorney’s fees. In order to be awarded attorney’s fees, the court MUST also find the denying parent “failed to provide court-ordered parenting time . . . .” If the only matter you have doesn’t address physical parenting time occurring or not occurring, the Court won’t make the findings necessary to award attorney’s fees. This is why a parent will want to include instances of denied parenting time if they are considering tackling a combination of issues through C.R.S. 14-10-129.5. If there was no denied parenting time, the only method most likely available to you is contempt.
The other reason contempt might be right for you is because the methods available to the Court to correct and/or punish the other party’s actions are far greater. Primarily, contempt grants you punitive relief you can’t necessarily get in an enforcement hearing. Whether it is jail time or some forms of financial sanctions, the enforcement proceeding is somewhat lacking.
The last major point – make sure you exercise your parenting time. In my experience, any and all parenting time.
If you disagree with the limited parenting time you are being provided and believe it is against the court’s order? Still take the parenting time. You are going to court to address the denied parenting time already, so it will likely be worked out by the judge. While I have yet to run into this issue, the reason is two-fold: all time with your children is wonderful, and the same statute that allows you to recover your parenting time also allows the court to order you to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees if you have “failed . . . to exercise court-ordered parenting time” or generally under the court’s discretion if the party is “found not to be in violation of the parenting time order or schedule.”
The bottom line is both parents should follow the parenting orders. You will be involved in one another’s lives for a long time co-parenting your children. And whether or not your actions can be punished through enforcement or contempt, everything you do will be and should be scrutinized at future modifications, so act in your children’s best interests and make things as easy as they should be in this, the most difficult time of your lives.
Best of luck!