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What to know about parental modifications

Your marriage was not a lifetime arrangement, but your parental commitment remains long after a marriage has dissolved. The divorce settlement figured out your asset division but the arrangement for co-parenting is more challenging and subject to change as your life does.

Fast-forwarding a few years after your divorce, you've got a new job offer or met somebody out of state. It's time to move away but you share custody with your ex. What are the steps to move on and away without twisting the knife in the divorce scars?

How does a Colorado modification agreement work?

While the best interests of the child were the determining factor for custody during your divorce, the terms have changed and the court recognizes that. Best interests will always lead the way, but a key element the court will consider in your case is how your child has adapted in his or her new homes in post-divorce life.

The court will consider a number of factors, some that were explored during the divorce, but with an updated perspective on your new living and custody arrangements. It depends on what you'd like to change, as Colorado has different processes for updating parental time agreements versus parenting plans and relocation.

Factors are complex and interdependent, but they include:

  • The wishes of both parents
  • The age and needs of your child
  • The wishes of your child
  • The relationship of the child with parents and siblings
  • The child's adjustments post-divorce
  • The ability of the parents to work together post-divorce
  • The decision making role of each parent post-divorce
  • Any safety concerns for the children

Modifications are expected over the years, but the court needs them to be serious, not for every little change in your lives. Working with a family law attorney can help form your argument and determine when the time is right. When you want a major change like a move, it's important to have all ducks in a row and have a cogent argument when making the motion.

Emphasize your child's needs, not your own

The focus should be on your household instead of your own needs. When requesting a modification for a move, discuss how it will provide stability and opportunity, such as how the change of home or job will affect your child. In other words, a new job will not simply increase income; it will allow you to provide a safer, healthier environment for your child and to save for the future. If you're moving to get remarried, it's best to frame the topic as it will affect your child: it may mean a tighter family unit or a better support network.

While a modification is an update to existing agreements, it's a serious matter that needs to be treated respectfully when reworking your parenting arrangements. Where you live has a big impact on how you live and how your child lives as well.

You're bound to your divorce agreement, but with flexibility to ensure the best living arrangements for your child. Make sure that your modification attempts are focused on your children's needs ahead of your own, but don't let the fear of another hearing deter you from improving your own situation. The two conditions are correlated and it's normal to reassess and update the divorce agreements as careers and relationships change and as your children grow and mature.

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