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Colorado is more progressive than other states when it comes to time with your children and the terminology used. “Custody” is not something you can ask for in court. That word was eliminated from the family code in 1998. Instead, a parenting plan must be prepared and submitted to the court as part of your divorce This plan must delineate who you think should make decisions regarding your children’s upbringing: this is called “decision making ability”. Your plan must also include detail on which parent your child will live with on what days: this is called “parenting time.” Added together, these are referred to in court as “parental responsibilities.”
Your children can live an equal amount of time with each guardian, or they can spend more time with one. Either way, the judge will only sign off on a schedule if he feels it’s in the best interests the children involved. If a judge is forced to make a parenting time decision because you and your spouse can’t agree on a jointly submitted plan, he will consider several things. In addition to Colorado’s best interests factors, a judge will weigh the time commitments of your other responsibilities. These responsibilities could include work commitments and your child’s activities. He will also consider how far apart you and your spouse will from each other. If your children can’t easily move back and forth between your homes, the parent who relocates might have limited parenting time because of the distance. It is almost unheard of for a parent to be denied any parenting time at all unless a criminal history or abuse history is apparent. The court will probably still order parenting time in most situations, but may require that a third party supervise the contact.
Decision-making ability establishes a prescribed routine for how you and your spouse will deal with major issues on behalf of your children. This takes place of what other states refer to as “Legal Custody”. If you and your spouse can agree to joint decision-making in a mutual parenting plan, the court will most likely sign off on it when you submit the plan as part of your divorce proceedings. If agreement cannot be reached, a judge must decide this issue at your divorce trial. He’ll want to know if your relationship with your ex-spouse is such that you’ll be able to work with and communicate with each other after the divorce. He will want to discuss how parenting decisions were made while you were still married.
Best Interests Factors
Colorado’s best interests factors are very similar to other states. There are issues a judge must consider when allocating parenting time and decision-making ability. Your wishes and your children’s wishes will be considered, but the court also looks at which parent is most likely to facilitate contact between the children and the other parent after your divorce is granted. Maintaining a child’s current lifestyle is important; the court doesn’t like to uproot children from their friends, schools and communities, forcing them to move in order to accommodate their parents’ divorce. If you can’t agree to a parenting plan and your children’s best interests aren’t obvious, a Colorado judge can order a custody evaluation or mediation. Mediation will involve meeting with an impartial third party that can help you negotiate a parenting plan that suits what’s best for the whole family.
Under Colorado law, you have rights as a parent regardless of the terms of your parenting plan even if you agree to one or the court orders it. You have the right to request and receive information about your child’s health and school records directly from his school or physician even if you don’t share joint decision-making ability. You are, also, free to request a custody evaluation on your own as part of your divorce proceedings if it doesn’t seem likely that the judge will order one on behalf of the court.
Hire a Top Family Lawyer in the Colorado Springs, Pueblo, and Castle Rock Areas
We can help you get what’s fair to you and your family. At Maceau Law, we take the time to listen to you and properly represent you in a court of law. We don’t treat you like another number or try to rush you through the process which could compromise your outcome. Call us now at 719-633-2222 to schedule a free 30-minute consultation in-person over the phone with one of our Colorado Springs attorneys. All information is kept strictly private.