If you’re a parent headed toward divorce, you’re likely stressed by the question of child custody. You want to have time and healthy relationships with your children, and you want to make sure the court recognizes what’s really in their best interests.
In Colorado, the courts use the term “parental responsibilities” instead of “custody,” and they try to rule in favor of your children’s best interests. In most cases, Colorado law directs the courts to make sure the children have frequent contact with both parents. And it encourages parents to set aside their conflicts in favor of shared decision-making and support.
Determining your children’s best interests
Colorado law admits that children suffer after high-conflict divorces. For this reason, the court may encourage you to mediate your parental responsibilities. Parents who use mediation often find more room for creative solutions, but the process doesn’t work for everyone. In these cases, the court may assign parental responsibilities.
The court will try to rule in your children’s best interests in terms of both parenting time and decision-making responsibilities. Factors it may consider include:
- Both parents’ interests
- Your children’s wishes, if they are mature enough to “express reasoned and independent preferences”
- Your children’s relationships with you, the other parent, their siblings and other friends and family members
- Your children’s environments at home, school and in your neighborhood
- Each parent’s ability to encourage a healthy relationship with the other parent
- Patterns of behavior that reflect systems of values and the ability of parents to work together
- How closely to each other the parents reside
- Your ability to put your child’s interests ahead of your own
Importantly, if your custody struggle heads to court, you want to speak the court’s language. It’s not necessarily enough that you love your children and have done your best to raise them well. You want to show your love and the work you’ve done in ways the court will understand.
Working past your emotions to get a fair decision
Thinking about going through child custody is enough to cause most parents stress, but actually going through the process can be emotionally exhausting. You may feel hurt and betrayed, but you still want to keep your children’s best interests in mind. It will be in your best interests to work with a legal professional who can guide you through the turmoil to focus on the outcome.