When you go through a divorce, you go through a mentally and emotionally painful process that involves dividing your assets, properties, and tearing down the life you and your spouse have built together. None of these matter, however, more than the custody of your child. Understanding the law and your rights is vital if you and your spouse are facing child custody issues.
What Is Child Custody?
Child custody, which includes both physical custody and legal custody, is defined as the responsibility for the care, maintenance, and upbringing of a child. A court may award sole custody to one of the parents or joint custody to both parents in a child custody dispute following a divorce proceeding.
Child custody cases and issues in the state of Colorado can be either disputed and settled by court order, or they can be willingly agreed upon between the parents and clearly specified in a legally binding custody arrangement. A child custody agreement in either case will legally resolve:
- Physical custody, or where the child will live
- Legal custody, or who will be responsible for parental decisions
- The arrangement of visitation schedule for non-custodial parents or relatives.
Colorado changed its traditional term of “custody” to “parental responsibilities” in 1999. The court determines parental responsibilities according to the standard of what is best for the child. To accomplish this, the judge takes into account many factors which include the parents’ wishes, the bond between the parents, the child’s difficulty in adjusting to a new environment (in case of a relocation), and the child’s own wishes. Gender is not considered a factor in determining who is a better parent.
Child Custody Arrangements in Colorado
Family courts in Colorado will strive for a joint custody arrangement because this has proved to be the most favorable arrangement as far as the mental and emotional well-being of most children are concerned. Joint custody can fall into any of these classifications:
Joint legal custody – Both parents agree to share responsibility on major life decisions concerning their child or children, such as health and education.
Joint physical custody – Both parents agree to spend equal time with their child or children.
A combination of both – Both legal and physical joint custody are awarded by the court in certain cases.
In a joint custody arrangement, a Colorado family court judge will take several factors into consideration. These include:
- If both parents have previously agreed or are willing to agree on a joint custody arrangement by themselves.
- If both parents live in locations close enough for a joint custody arrangement to work.
- If both parents are capable of communicating and working together in raising the children.
- If both parents are willing to promote and sustain a favorable relationship between the children and their ex-spouse.
- If one of the parents has a history of abuse that could endanger the children or the other parent.
One drawback of equal time division in a joint physical custody arrangement is its difficulty in enforcing it, particularly when the parents live or work in different states. Most of the time, one parent has exclusive parental responsibilities with the child while the other parent must settle for parenting or visitation time. However, the time shared with your child will be given consideration based on the conditions of your case.
Exclusive physical and legal custody can be awarded to one parent if the other parent has subjected the child to physical, sexual, or extreme emotional abuse, or if the child had witnessed abuse or violence committed against one of the parents.
Changes in Child Custody Agreement
In certain circumstances, both parents can request changes or modifications to the child custody arrangement. Family courts will, as a rule, keep these changes to a minimum and only allow them if they are of major importance since too many disruptions to a child’s schedule can affect him or her in a negative way, emotionally and mentally.
For example, one parent may have a different schedule or have a new job that could conflict with the original child custody agreement. Modifications in the agreement could also be made to accommodate a parent’s request for relocation in case of a better career opportunity.
In the case of a job relocation, the judge will review the request and decide if moving with the custodial parent will serve a child’s best interest. There are some other factors the judge will also have to consider, including:
- The child’s age and sex
- The child’s special emotional or educational needs, if any
- The effect on the relationship between the child and the custodial parent and the relocating parent
- How the relocation will affect the child’s quality of life
- The non-relocating parent’s objection to relocation and their reason for protesting.
- For older children, whether they agree to relocating and which parent they choose to live with
The Child’s Own Wishes In Colorado Child Custody
In Colorado, a child’s own wishes can technically be taken into consideration by the court in determining custody arrangements. In rare cases the court will allow the child to influence the parenting time schedule if the courts determine the child is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences. But in reality the child’s wishes are also not always taken into account and courts do not routinely allow a child to testify. Instead they are heard through a Child and Family Investigator or in some cases (and very few) the Judge can interview the minor child in his or her chambers.
Contact a Goldman Law Regarding Your Colorado Child Custody Case
You always wish what is best for your child and hope the court will reach a decision in your favor. However, the rules involved in child custody laws are not always easy to analyze or understand. This means you should not have to deal with child custody issues in Colorado by yourself. Get in touch with a professional child custody lawyer from Goldman Law by calling (303) 656-9529 to better understand Colorado child custody laws and how they apply to your case.