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Child Custody Parenting Time & Visitation
In every Colorado divorce, legal separation, annulment, or paternity case involving children, Colorado courts will consider the “best interests of the child” to determine Colorado child custody and visitation (the legal term in Colorado is “parenting rights and responsibilities”). In Colorado, there are several criteria that the courts use to determine parenting plans and custody arrangements. Typically, judges in Colorado order parents to share legal custody or have joint legal custody (called joint parental responsibilities). … Therefore, often one parent has the sole physical custody or primary parental responsibilities with the child, while the other parent has visitation or parenting time. Colorado courts require all divorcing parents with minor children to complete a mandatory parenting class before granting a divorce. This requirement is designed to help parents and children deal with the trauma of divorce and separation.
Best Interest of the Child Standard
Courts will consider a multitude of factors and criteria when making a best interest determination, such as:
- courts consider the interaction of the child with the parents, brothers and sisters, and any other person who affects the child.
- home, school and community adjustments are considered. For example, if sufficient evidence is provided that removing the child from his or her current school will result in a significant decline in education or overall experience, then this will affect the court’s decision.
- the mental and physical health of everyone in the child’s life. The mental and physical health of the parents can be a factor. If one of the parents is deemed unfit either mentally or physically, this could affect the court’s decision of which parent takes custody of the child. If the parent is physically unable to care for the child, but has the financial means to hire, this physical hindrance may not be as important as it seems.
- examine the willingness of each parent to share the child.
- the parent’s past involvement with the child will be considered, including the value system each parent holds and time spent with the child.
- proximity is considered when practical decisions concerning visitation are made. For example, if the parents live one to four hours apart, it would not be in the best interest of the child to divide parenting time equally. An every-other-weekend scenario is more likely in those cases.
- each parent’s ability and willingness to foster a loving relationship between the child and the other parent
- whether each parent’s history with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support
- whether either parent has committed child abuse or domestic violence, and
- each parent’s ability to put the child’s needs ahead of his or her own.
Wishes of the Child
It is often asked if the child gets to choose where and with whom they live with after a divorce. A child who is mature enough to express a reasoned opinion on the issue will be allowed to do so, and the court will also consider how close the child’s relationship is with each parent. Ultimately, the judge decides where the child should live. Courts’, if the child is of appropriate age, will consider if the child expresses an interest in living with one parent over the other. Normally, this is one of the most important factors, especially with older children. However, it is by no means the only factor. The court could deem that the parent the child wishes to live with cannot provide a suitable environment, so the child must live with the other parent or guardian. During the prior to an established final parenting plan, the Courts have to enter interim orders regarding visitation, and parenting time. The courts will consider several key points when deciding visitation:
- Both biological parents have the right to child visitations
- If there is no evidence against a parent saying they are unfit to have involvement in the child’s life, the courts will allow visitations from both parents, presuming it benefits the child.
- In some cases, the father may need to provide paternal proof that they are biologically related to the child.
- Both parents may have to submit a parenting plan to the courts, outlining their decisions related to health care, education, environment, etc
Establishing a final parenting plan in the child’s best interest can be a long, drawn out process that is frustrating and stressful. The three most basic steps involved in getting custody of your child are:
Filing out the Forms
It’s important to correctly fill out the necessary child custody forms, and to know exactly what forms you need. Not completing the right forms or filling them out incorrectly could delay your court date. This is one of the reasons to have a custody lawyer – your lawyer is well versed in both your state laws and the most efficient way to fill out the forms.
This is where the judge will hear both parties present reasoning for having primary custody of the children. Some couples choose to negotiate their child custody agreements and have them finalized in court, but when there is a serious dispute, the court will decide the outcome of the custody agreement.
If a dispute is present the family court judge has the final say concerning the children. The court uses information from several sources to make a decision, and it’s important that both parties abide by the ruling, but know that appeals can be made later. Parenting rights and responsibilities should be amicable, however sadly this is not always the case, and parents often times put their interests, agendas and vengeance above the best interest of children. If you are in a custody dispute, and would like to be represented by a skilled caring custody lawyer in Parker, Colorado visit Thomas Ramunda Jr. He has the experience and knowledge to bring the desired outcome of your case to you!