Sad to say, not all marriages work out. Sometimes, two people simply cannot reach a compromise and have no other choice but to dissolve the relationship. Lewis & Matthews, P.C. is here to help parents deal with the legal processes as well as the aftermaths and implications of divorce so they can start anew with no anger or resentment. Our areas of practice include child custody in Colorado.
Child Custody Law in Colorado
Colorado does not recognize joint or sole custody. The state uses the term parental responsibility instead (joint or primary). Legal custody refers to a parent’s authority and right to make vital decisions about the child’s welfare, such as choices about health and education. On the other hand, physical custody pertains to the child’s physical presence with a parent. The court can assign responsibility and type of custody to parents, depending on whether:
- the parents can make decisions together
- the past pattern of the parents’ involvement creates a fosters a mutually supportive relationship
- the parents can cooperate in providing a positive and nurturing relationship with the child
- any particular allocation of authority will be more likely to facilitate frequent contact between the child and both parents
An exception to joint legal custody is when there is an abusive or neglectful parent.
How Is Child Custody Determined?
The court will decide what is in the best interest of the child. Judges will take the following factors into consideration when determining physical custody (“parenting time”) and legal custody (“parenting responsibilities”):
- the parents’ wishes
- the child’s wishes (if the child is mature enough to form and express an opinion)
- the child’s relationship with each parent, sibling, and other significant people in the child’s life
- the child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
- the mental and physical well-being of each parent and the child
- the ability of each parent to encourage the child’s relationship with the other parent
- the physical distance between the parents’ homes
- whether a parent has abused or neglected the child
- whether a parent has abused the other parent
- the ability of each parent to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs, and
- any other facts the court considers relevant
How to File for Child Custody in Colorado?
Child custody is decided during divorce proceedings. However, there are cases when the child’s parents are not married. Unwed couples have to petition the court separately regarding the allocation of parental responsibility.
How Does Domestic Violence Affect Child Custody?
Child custody gets a bit more complicated when domestic violence comes into play. Domestic violence is a kind of violence that occurs within a domestic relationship. It is a cycle of abusive behavior in a family or household used by one person to control and intimidate another person.
Domestic violence can also happen within intimate relationships, such as people who have a child together, spouses, former spouses, and people who are or were dating. It can also include violence between a parent and child, siblings, and even unrelated people who cohabitate.
When deciding on parenting time and responsibilities, a Colorado court must review whether domestic violence was committed against the child or the other parent. However, domestic violence is not the end-all-be-all of the custody case. That means, even if a parent has abused any one of the two other people in the family, the court can still grant the abuser parenting time and responsibilities. Simply put, the other best-interest factors can outweigh domestic violence.
Since domestic violence in child custody cases is a sensitive matter, it’s best to hire a seasoned child custody lawyer to help you achieve a resolution that ensures the safety of you and your child. For more information about how domestic violence affects child custody decisions in Colorado, read this guide or contact Lewis & Matthews, P.C. directly for the legal counsel you need during this critical point in your child’s life.
FAQs on Child Custody in Colorado
Can the child decide which parent to live with?
There is no specific age when a child can choose which parent to live with. However, the court takes into account whether the child is mature enough to express logical and autonomous preferences on parenting time.
What is a parenting plan?
The Parenting Plan form is a state-issued document that parents need to fill out and submit when filing for child custody in Colorado. It must contain the following elements:
- Agreement on parenting responsibilities
- Basic parenting schedule (regular and ongoing basis)
- Parenting schedule for holidays and vacations
- Allocation of decision-making responsibilities and rights
- Resolutions to potential disputes, like attending family counseling or mediation
The Parenting Plan serves as a written manual on shared parenting, so it’s essential to be thorough and intuitive to minimize risks and problems in the future. If you and your partner cannot agree on the items listed in your plan, consider working with a child custody lawyer.
How can I increase my chances of winning custody over my child?
Losing custody of your child is unimaginable. Many factors impact the court’s decision. The best thing that you can do is think about the circumstances surrounding the case and avoid actions that will put you in a bad light. Consider the following tips:
- Avoid big life transitions that can negatively affect your child (relocating to a new place, etc.)
- Ensure a safe and loving environment
- Adapt your work schedule so you can tend to your child’s needs
- Avoid introducing a third party (such as a new partner)
- Hire a family law attorney
Book a Private Consultation
At Lewis & Matthews, P.C., we strive to help couples arrive at a peaceful and fair resolution on child custody. Our legal experience and know-how make child custody matters less stressful to all parties, emotionally and financially. Talk to our team by calling us at (303) 329-3802 or send us your inquiries through the contact form.