How Are Parental Responsibilities Allocated?
Divorce in and of itself is difficult enough, but when the couple has children, ending the marriage will be more complicated and, in most cases, more emotional. A divorcing parent has concerns about the future well-being of the children as well as about legal rights to physical custody, parenting time and decision-making responsibility.
Under Colorado law, these concepts are known collectively as the allocation of parental responsibilities.
How Judges Approach The Allocation Of Responsibilities
When a Colorado state court judge decides how to allocate these responsibilities — that is, parenting time and decision-making responsibility — he or she is required by law to enter orders that are in the best interests of the child.
The judge is not to consider parental behavior that does not impact his or her relationship with the child, nor is the judge to favor either parent because of the parent’s gender.
Colorado law declares a public policy that it is usually in everyone’s best interest to encourage co-parenting and keep both parents regularly involved in their children’s lives after divorce. To that end, the law encourages parents to “share the rights and responsibilities of child rearing and … encourage the love, affection and contact between the children and the parents.”
Of course, despite this official preference for joint custody, if it is not in the child’s best interest, a different decision in the child’s best interest is required. Colorado statute says that in determining a child’s best interests, the court should give “paramount consideration to the child’s safety and the physical, mental and emotional conditions and needs of the child …”
What Factors Affect A Parent’s Right To Parenting Time?
To determine the child’s best interest regarding parenting time, the court must consider all relevant factors, including nine specific concerns:
- Parental wishes
- The child’s wishes if sufficiently mature
- Relationships between the child and parents, siblings and anyone else who significantly impacts the child’s best interests
- The child’s adjustment to home, school and community
- Everyone’s mental and physical health
- Parental ability to encourage contact with the other parent, except in cases of violence, abuse or neglect
- Patterns of parental involvement with the child
- Physical proximity of the parental homes
- Parental ability to put the child first
In cases involving sexual assault, domestic violence, or child abuse or neglect, the law contains detailed instructions for judges to follow in determining what will be best and safe for children vis-à-vis custody decisions.
Contact Us To Learn More
This only introduces the themes of Colorado custody law and policy. Anyone facing custody matters should speak with an experienced family lawyer for advice and representation.
With offices in Parker, the attorneys of Fuller & Ahern, P.C. represent parents facing divorce in the Denver metro area and throughout Colorado. Call 303-800-0474 to schedule a free consultation. You can also contact us online. We’re always ready to help.