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Parenting time and child support are separate issues in Colorado

Parents who never married may have to deal with parenting time and child support issues at some point. When parents divorce, these issues are addressed as part of the divorce proceeding. But if the parents never married, one parent - typically the one caring for the child - will have to seek a child support order, either through the Colorado state court system or the county child support enforcement office.

Once a child support order is issued, the noncustodial parent will often seek visitation rights with the child in a system known as parenting time. If the custodial parent refuses to allow parenting time, the noncustodial parent can to go to court and file a Petition for Allocation of Parental Responsibility. The court will generally try to get the parties to agree on a parenting plan. If they are unable to agree, the judge will make the decision.

Sometimes a parent who is paying child support is tempted to stop paying if the custodial parent refuses to allow visitation or violates the terms of a parenting time order. Similarly, sometimes a parent who is receiving child support will refuse to allow court-ordered parenting time when the other parent fails to pay child support as ordered.

This is never a good idea. The obligation to pay child support is independent of the right to parenting time, and the obligation to allow parenting time is independent of the right to receive child support. When one parent does not comply with a child support or parenting plan order, the other parent can seek relief in court, but should continue meeting all of his or her obligations.

Parenting time and child support disputes are often contentious and bitter. It is critical for parents to put the best interests of the child first and work together to reach an agreement. When this doesn't work, an experienced family law attorney can help a parent enforce his or her rights.

Source: Colorado Division of Child Support Enforcement, "A Parent's Guide to Visitation: How to Establish and Enforce Parenting Time," accessed Jan. 19, 2016

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