In the context of divorce, issues involving child custody can be among the most contentious. When we consider the many difficult issues involved in a divorce, this is a very profound statement. Parents often end up fighting most diligently over child custody arrangements. Fortunately, the State of Colorado has a well-designed system of law when it comes to determining child custody. Let's go over some of the basics of this situation here.
First, Colorado calls custody "parental responsibilities and parenting time" but for our purposes here, we will call it "custody."
Colorado Specific Terminology
Firstly, it's useful to point out that Colorado has unique terminology in this area. In most states throughout the country, courts use the terms “joint physical custody” and “sole physical custody” to refer to living arrangements for children. And they use terms such as “joint legal custody” and “sole legal custody” to refer to the decision-making authority for children. Colorado courts use the term “parental responsibility” in place of “custody.” So, parents can be awarded joint physical parental responsibility or joint legal parental responsibility, and so forth
Courts Customized Child Custody Arrangements
Colorado courts start from the premise that children are best served by having regular contact with both parents. In other words, as a general principle, the State of Colorado believes that the ideal parenting situation involves frequent contact with both parents, with both parents being committed to providing a nourishing environment. However, depending on the circumstances, Colorado courts may have to create custody arrangements that differ from this ideal. And the reason for this is because courts are fundamentally committed to serving the best interests of the child, and sometimes this requires non-ideal custody arrangements.
Colorado courts can customize child custody arrangements in a plethora of ways. For instance, courts can order joint legal parental responsibility, or grant one parent sole legal parental responsibility, or even divide legal parental responsibility such that each parent has authority over specific aspects of the child's life. In many ways, whether a court grants shared or joint legal parental responsibility depends on the relationship between the parents. If the parents demonstrate that they can cooperate together for the best interests of the child, then there is a high chance that courts will grant shared legal parental responsibility.
The Standard of Evaluation
Whether a Colorado court is determining either legal parental responsibility or physical parental responsibility, the standard of evaluation is the same: courts utilize the best interests of the child standard. This means that a Colorado judge will not award legal parental responsibility to a parent who has been abusive or neglectful. Furthermore, it also means that a Colorado judge may grant one parent sole physical parental responsibility if that judge believes such a decision to be best for the child.
When determining physical parental responsibility in particular, courts have been known to consider a number of factors. These factors include the child's own desires, the desires of the parents, the child's relationships with other children at school or in his or her neighborhood, the child's relationship with each parent, the physical distance between the homes of the parents, the emotional and physical health of the parents, and so forth. In short, child custody analyses are global analyses and take account of various factors; but, ultimately, the guiding principle is the best interests of the child.
Contact the Drake Law Firm for More Information
This is just a broad overview of child custody agreements here in Colorado. We may return in the future and discuss other aspects of child custody, such as the role of parenting classes and mediation. For now, give the Drake Law Firm a call to learn more by dialing 303-261-8111.