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The 50-50 Parenting Time Presumption: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

A proposed bill involving Colorado family law recently progressed to the House Committee at the State Capitol after unanimous approval by the State Senate. Entitled SB-15-129, the proposed bill would require Colorado family law judges to make specific findings in their orders if they decided not to award “substantially equal parenting time.” Parts of the bill severely restricting the powers of Parental Responsibilities Evaluators (PREs) and Child and Family Investigators (CFIs) were removed before the bill was proposed to the House.

Defining Substantially Equal Parenting Time

The amended bill was sponsored by Republican Kevin Lundberg and Democrat Daniel Kagan. It was prompted by a request from Carl Roberts, a Republican software salesman in the midst of a six-year custody battle involving his sons, aged 11 and 12.

Modern Family Law attorneys attended the House Committee hearing on April 16, 2015 to ensure that the outcome of the proposed bill was in the best interests of Colorado families and their children.

Witnesses testified in favor of and against the bill at this hearing. Although the definition of “substantially equal parenting time” was hotly debated during the witness testimonies of both supporters and critics of the bill, the House Committee ultimately decided the term meant 50-50 parenting time between the parties.

The Problem with the 50-50 Parenting Time Presumption

The Colorado Bar Association, as well as several prominent attorneys, PREs, and CFIs testified against the bill. They argued that the bill was redundant and created a presumption of equal parenting time. Several groups argued that the bill would dissuade survivors of domestic violence from pursuing legal action against their perpetrators. Specifically, they noted that perpetrators who would otherwise be denied parenting time due to a history of abuse and violence would be able to use SB 15-129’s presumption as a bargaining tool during settlement and litigation. Critics also pointed to the fact that the Best Interests of the Child Standard (C.R.S. 14-10-124), which SB 15-129 sought to amend, took 18 months of deliberation, evaluation, and discussion in 2013. They argued that the Standard was working effectively and did not require the additional presumption of 50-50 parenting time. They also argued that the proposed bill would, in fact, increase litigation because it would allow litigants to reopen their cases for review using the new presumption.

Other groups, primarily those focused on father’s rights, testified in favor of the bill. They argued that the status quo gave mothers too much power and criticized the roles of PREs and CFIs in the evaluation process of custody matters. Proponents of the bill also argued that the bill would reduce the number of cases that are litigated, the same argument that favored the recent passage of the spousal support formula (effective January 2014).

Final Thoughts

After five hours of testimony and deliberation, the Committee voted 9-4 against the bill and to postpone it indefinitely. Modern Family Law welcomes the House Committee’s decision.

If you need help settling parenting time matters, contact us for a free and confidential consultation

Posted April 27, 2015
by: MFL Team

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