Aug 10 2016
What Factors Determine Child Custody in Colorado?
Child custody, or “parental responsibilities,” is typically one of the more sensitive issues in divorce proceedings. Each parent has his or her own opinions on how and where their child should be raised, and there is understandably a lot of emotion involved.
It is normal to be nervous or scared when thinking about your upcoming divorce settlement. How will a judge rule? What factors will sway his or her decision? How can you best show the judge that the arrangements you want are best for your child?
First things first, it’s important to understand the decisions and laws that shape child custody decisions in Colorado.
During any divorce proceedings, judges look to provide the best arrangement for the child’s well being and growth. The state of Colorado believes that this is done through allowing both parents to supervise their child and be involved in important decisions – at least under most circumstances.
In other words, Colorado judges prefer to award parents with joint custody, or joint parenting responsibilities. This not only allows each parent the right to see and raise the child, but also gives each parent decision-making abilities. Parents will typically share decisions about health, finances, and education.
Factors that Determine Child Custody
Child custody is determined, first and foremost, by the best interests of the child. A judge will look at the following factors to figure out what arrangement will set the child up for success:
- Relationship with each parent – If a child is determined to be mature enough to testify in court (there is no minimum age requirement), a judge will consider the child’s opinion about who he or she wants to live with after the divorce.
- Parent’s plan for raising the child – A judge will certainly not give as many rights to a parent who is apathetic about raising his or her child. Each parent will have to talk to the judge in court about why they should receive a certain amount of custody rights, and a judge will take each party’s testimony into account while making a decision.
- Location of each parent – The transportation time and costs will definitely be a factor as the child will have to go back and forth to each parent throughout the year. Parenting time can be split 50/50, but only if the parents are close enough for the child to easily be transported back and forth.
- Physical and mental health of each parent (and the child) – This is not saying that a court can deny one parent the rights to child custody because the parent has a disability. However, certain health conditions may affect the parent’s ability to raise a child, so a judge will consider health while making his or her decision.
- Ability to cooperate – Parents who share custody of their children often need to be flexible with their schedules and cooperate with each other. If one spouse is unwilling to cooperate with another spouse, or is discouraging the child from having a positive relationship with the other spouse, a judge will take note of the spouse’s behavior.
- History of domestic violence or abuse – Domestic abuse or violence is typically the only factor that will sway a judge to grant sole custody. If your spouse has a history of domestic violence or abuse, it is crucial to make this known to the judge in court. If the abuse is still happening, consider filing a protection order before divorce proceedings begin.
Factors That Are Not Considered
The following will not be part of any decision related to child custody:
- The gender of each parent – Mothers are not assumed to be the better parent, and are no more likely to gain parental responsibility rights than fathers.
- Fault – Colorado is a purely “no-fault” divorce state. When filing for divorce, all you need to prove to the judge is that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Any other arguments, faults, or allegations of adultery will not be considered in any area of divorce proceedings (unless spousal or domestic abuse is involved).
- Child support payments – Child support is a separate issue from parenting time. The financial situation and standard of living may impact a judge’s decision on where a child should live, but failure to pay child support or child support payments will not affect parenting time. You cannot withhold child support payments from a spouse who is not cooperating with parenting time.
As you can see, child custody is not always a cut-and-dry issue. A lot of factors depend on how well you can communicate to the judge your intentions and abilities as a parent. Because of this, you should be sure to reach out to an experienced family lawyer who will help you fight for the parenting time and child support rights you deserve.
About the Author:
Vernon Ready is an award-winning Colorado lawyer with an in-depth understanding of all areas of family law, estate planning, and personal injury. His energetic and aggressive advocacy approach allow him to successfully navigate complex cases, including high asset divorce and complicated custody issues. During his time at the University of Colorado Law School, Ready won numerous awards for his trial advocacy skills. Since being admitted to practice in 2009, Ready has become well-known throughout Denver and the state for the passionate defense of his clients and his unparalleled understanding of the law.