Colorado Divorce: Who Makes What Decisions About The Children

Filed Under (Divorce and Legal Separation) on 02-21-2013

Parenting plan, Divorce Process, Divorce Forms

The time when parents begin living apart is one of the most stressful for children. Their worst fear is of losing a parent. They need both parents to stay actively involved in their lives at this time. Children will adjust better when their parents work together to make a smooth transition. With this in mind, it is best to tackle the task of splitting up the decision-making duties as soon as possible. It may be easiest if you separate decisions in two categories; day-to-day decisions and major decisions. Day-to-day decisions such as menus, schedules, bed times, transportation are generally made by the parent who has the children at the time. It is the major decisions that should be sorted out. 

The divorce statute suggests that the major decisions include “the health, education, and general welfare of the child.” Most divorcing parents find this definition too inclusive. It is important that the two of you evolve your own more specific list of decisions which you agree you must share during this interim period. Some examples are:

•    Activities of our children which will take place on both parents’ time with them.
•    Major expenses for our children which we expect the other parent to share.
•    Major planned elective medical or dental care, but not emergency medical care.
•    How we will share or divide birthdays and holidays which occur during this interim period.

Shared or mutual decision-making means you keep talking until you reach agreement. You may agree that some or all of the major decisions, or categories of decisions, will be made by one or the other of you. Even if you are agreeing that one parent alone will make particular decisions, you may list matters that you will consult each other about. This means you must discuss it before hand, even though the decision-maker still makes the final decision. For example, one parent might make all the clothing purchases, but discuss ahead of time the limit on spending and how to pay for it.

Naming one parent to make certain decisions and the other parent to make others allows some parents to share this important aspect of parenting without creating endless confrontations. If one of you has historically made the decisions about medical care, and the other has always had the last word about education issues, you can continue this way of doing things in your temporary agreement.

Whatever your choices, being clear about who makes what decisions about your children helps them feel secure, and to know that you are in control.

For more information on this topic and a helpful Temporary Parenting Decisions List, see the “Friendly Divorce Guidebook—How to Do Your Own Divorce in Colorado” by M. Arden Hauer MN, JD