Allocation of Parental Responsibilities
When parents separate or divorce, arrangements must be made about who will care for the children. Often referred to as child custody and visitation, in Colorado this has become known as Allocation of Parental Responsibilities. As in all divorce and family law matters, either the parties can agree to a resolution through negotiation or mediation, or a proceeding becomes contested and the Court can decide a resolution.
Children will either reside primarily with one parent, or the parents will have joint residential custody. Joint residential custody means that a child is staying overnight with both parents for a substantial amount of time. The legal standard for joint residential custody is that a child spend at least 92 overnights with each parent a year. If residential custody is not joint, then the children will primarily reside with one parent, and the other parent will have designated parenting time (AKA visitation) where they can spend specified periods of time with the child.
There is no presumption in favor of either the mother or father so either parent could be awarded primary residential custody. When determining allocation of parental responsibilities, Courts consider such factors as:
- The wishes of the parents;
- At an appropriate age, the wishes of the child;
- The relationship of the child with his or her parents and siblings;
- The child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
- The ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party;
- The past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child;
- The physical proximity of the parties to each other;
- Any child or spousal abuse;
- The ability of each party to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs.
When children are involved, it is important to remain focused on their best interests. It is helpful to keep in mind that you will be interacting with the other parent regarding important decisions such as education, healthcare and religion often for many years to come. Therefore, it benefits the children for parents to interact civilly and constructively. Of course, this is often easier said than done when feelings are damaged and emotions run high. An attorney can assist as an intermediary to work towards constructive solutions.
Parties can resolve parenting issues themselves through negotiation or mediation and present the Court with a Parenting Plan that can be issued as a court order. Alternatively, if parents can not agree, the Court can decide how parenting time will occur in a contested hearing. In matters involving children, a Court will always use a best interests of the child legal standard in making decisions.
If you are looking for a dependable guide to lead you through the difficult and unfamiliar divorce and family law terrain, contact me at 720-780-0115, or by using the online contact form. I am looking forward to navigating a route with you.