Covid-19 has changed many things; how we shop, how we work, how our children learn and how we interact with others, to name a few. It has even changed how attorneys present cases in a court of law. Many individuals have reached out to inquire how Covid-19 impacts their parenting time order, if at all. In Colorado, the Courts have been clear that the Covid-19 pandemic does not excuse a lack of compliance with court ordered parenting time.
In cases where a court has already issued a valid court order regarding parenting time, a parent who chooses not to comply with that order can face legal ramifications; to include an order of contempt and an award of attorneys fees. By way of example, in the Colorado 4th Judicial District (Colorado Springs area), The Chief Judge Order issued by Hon. William Bain on May 29, 2020, is clear, :
“All Parties are advised that all existing court orders, including parenting time and parenting exchange orders, are not suspended by the Stay-at-Home or Safer-at-Home Orders issued by Governor Jared Polis, and shall continue to be followed unless otherwise modified by the Court or agreement of the parties.”
Other Chief Judge Orders issued throughout the State contain similar language with the common theme – Court orders are to be followed, period. Therefore, in instances where a parent has used Colorado Covid-19 “stay-at-home” and “safer-at-home” as an excuse to not exchange children with the other parent, the parent who was denied parenting time will likely prevail in Court. A Motion to Enforce the parenting time order can be filed pursuant to C.R.S. §14-10-129.5 by the aggrieved parent. And, if granted, the at-fault parent can be subjected to several possible sanctions, including but not limited to:
- make-up parenting time awarded to the aggrieved parent for each day of parenting time that was withheld and all of the missed parenting days are to be made-up within 6 months;
- make-up parenting time to take place at the time and in the matter chosen by the aggrieved parent;
- a civil fine up to $100.00 for each incident of denied parenting time;
- family counseling ordered for all parties and can be ordered at the expense of the at-fault parent;
- posting of bond or security to ensure future compliance;
- pay the attorney’s fees, court costs and expenses incurred by the aggrieved parent;
- any other orders deemed necessary, to include modification of the parenting time order, in order to serve the best interest of the child.
Best practice is to always follow the current court order regarding parenting time as Covid-19 is not a recognized or valid excuse to violate that order. And, seek legal counsel from an experienced family law attorney if you seek to modify a parenting time order if your circumstances warrant it, or to bring an action against an at-fault parent to compel compliance with that order.