Joint Parental Decision-Making in Colorado
Though one parent may have more parenting time than the other, generally under Colorado family law the parents share decision-making responsibilities over the children (sometimes referred to as "joint legal custody"). What that means is that neither parent can unilaterally make major decisions for the children - instead, the other parent must be consulted. Joint decision-making obviously works best when the parents share similar child-rearing values, and it helps if they get along.
Colorado child custody law defines major decisions as those affecting health, education, spiritual upbringing, and general welfare. So don't plan on home-schooling children, changing their religion, putting them in therapy, or having a child undergo elective surgery without the consent of the other parent. In an emergency, either parent can consent to necessary surgery or medical treatment, however.
The parent who the children are staying with at the time typically makes the day-to-day decisions regarding them, such as household hygiene & discipline, bedtimes, studying vs. television, etc.
Access to Children's Information
It is difficult to share in major decision-making without information pertaining to the children. Colorado family law already guarantees the rights of parents to obtain medical, school, and other records. But without knowing who is providing services to the children, this right can be difficult to enforce. A well-written parenting plan should require the parents to provide each other with the contact information for any third party providing education, medical, therapeutic, or other services to the children, and execute any forms necessary so the other parent can independently obtain information.
The best time to address decision-making issues is when the parents are obtaining a divorce in Colorado. As an example, the parents may anticipate some of the issues which will arise, and set up rules in advance, such as what religion the children will be, whether they'll be educated in public or private schools, etc. The parents can also define any issue as a "major" issue requiring joint decision-making, such as exposure to firearms, the age to start driving or dating, body art & piercing, etc.
Finally, if the parents ultimately disagree, a Colorado parenting plan should contain a dispute resolution process to avoid the parents having to run to their divorce lawyers and the Colorado family law court every time a dispute arises. The dispute resolution may require consultation, but give one parent the ultimate decision in case of disagreement. Or it may solicit the assistance of a third party to act as a parenting coordinator, mediator, or even an arbitrator (akin to a private judge).
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