Colorado uses the term 'parental responsibilities' to refer to child custody. The court looks at a number of factors when determining the amount of time a child will have allocated to his or her parents. An even split of time does not work for all families, and so the court evaluates what would be best for the child and not necessarily what the parents want. In many cases, and in a perfect world, the parents would each want full custody of their child or children. However, in reality, they may each only have a certain amount of time with them per year.
The court puts emphasis on the following factors when determining parental responsibilities:
The wishes of the child or children
The wishes of each parent
The relationship the child has with each parent and other guardians in his or her life
The adjustments that the child would need to make in a new school, new home, or new environment or community
The health — both mentally and physically — of all children and parents involved
When the parents involved do not agree with the parental responsibilities proposed by the court, they may file a Petition for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities. This petition will outline the terms that the other parent does or does not agree with and makes changes (or not) from there. If there are any modifications that a parent wants to make to their assigned parental responsibilities, they may file what is called a Motion to Modify Decision-Making Responsibility.
Many divorces in Colorado are uncontested, which means that both parents play a role in determining how custody of their children will be divided. In the vast majority of cases, this results in equally shared custody, with the parent remaining in the former household having more physical custody, and the other parent having full visitation rights and equal legal custody. The only time Colorado courts will grant full custody to a parent, both physically and legally, is when one of the parents is accused or convicted for physical abuse and/or domestic violence. In situations like this, the victimized parent will always receive full custody. Once there is no longer danger to the former spouse or child, the parent without custody can appeal the court’s decision to try and gain some custody and visitation rights.
When determining and/or modifying custody, the custody plan must include:
An agreement between the parents or guardians involved
A basic time schedule that outlines the time in which the child or children will spend with each parent on a regular and future basis
A holiday and vacation time schedule, including school and personal vacation time
A provision that allocates decision-making responsibilities and the rights of each parent — this is when primary custody would be determined or not
A foundation plan for resolving any potential, future disputes
Colorado considers custody to be either joint or primary. Any case where a parent has over ninety (90) overnight visitations makes them the primary custody parent, making them the sole decision-maker. This means that they alone have the power to make major educational, religious and medical decisions and more. In the event that one parent has a history of abuse or violence, then they are most often given ‘supervised visitation’, if they are allowed visitation at all. This is so that the child is as exposed to as little danger or harm as possible. With the case of divorced, separated or unwed parents, the court tries to make decisions that allow the child or children to be brought up in a way that would be most beneficial and supportive for them as a whole.
When you have a good family law attorney on your side, you can stop worrying about whether you will see your kids, and instead focus on how to provide them with the best possible upbringing after such a major event in their young lives. Contact the Colorado Springs child custody attorneys at Kinnaird Law today for a free consultation regarding your parental rights.