Going through a divorce can be an emotional process – having to deal with separating assets, belongings, and untying the life you have built together can leave individuals feeling emotionally and mentally drained. But, when the custody of children is added into the mix, the emotions reach a whole new level, and the child custody case often becomes more important than the actual divorce. For couples dealing with child custody issues, it is important they understand the law and their rights.
Child Custody Laws in Colorado
When it comes to child custody issues and cases in the state of Colorado, the court system will always make the decision it feels is best for the children involved in the case. Since many studies have shown having two active parents in a child’s life is important, Colorado courts will always strive to have the parents decide on a co-parenting plan or will award a joint custody arrangement in order to allow both parents to have the responsibility and decision making power in their children’s lives.
Although the parents will likely be encouraged to come up with a parenting plan on their own, or with the help of mediation, there are some situations where this arrangement simply isn’t possible. In these cases, the court system will evaluate the factors surrounding the parent’s relationship, the relationship with the children and the case in general in order to make a custody decision that best supports the children’s well-being and what will provide the best opportunity to have both parents involved.
Types of Child Custody in Colorado
A joint custody arrangement is something Colorado family courts will always strive to achieve since this has been found to be the best arrangement for most children in terms of their emotional and mental well-being. Joint custody can be one of three things – joint legal custody, joint physical custody, or a combination of both. Joint legal custody is when both parents have the right to collaborate on important decisions about the children’s lives. Joint physical custody is when parents share the time they have the children living with them. In some cases, both legal and physical joint custody is awarded.
When considering a joint custody arrangement, Colorado family court judges will look at a number of factors including:
- If the parents can agree or have already agreed on a joint custody agreement on their own
- If the parents live close enough geographically to make a joint custody arrangement feasible
- If the parents have the ability to work together and communicate to raise the children
- If both parents are willing to foster a positive relationship between the children and the other parent
- If either of the parents have a history of abuse that would make a joint agreement dangerous for the children
What Determines Child Custody in Colorado
Should a joint custody arrangement not be feasible, the court system will need to make a determination as to whom the children will primarily reside with and which parent will receive visitation rights. In order to determine who the primary custodial parent will be, the judge will look at a number of different factors to help decide which of the parents would make the best primary caregiver. In addition, the court will need to decide how much visitation time the other parent will receive and when.
A Colorado judge will examine each parent from a moral and characteristics standpoint, but will also look at a number of additional factors to help them choose the best possible caregiver. Some of these additional factors will likely include:
- Which parent is able to financially provide the shelter, clothing, and food needed to support the child
- Which parent is emotionally and mentally stable enough to provide a nurturing home for the child
- Which parent is most able to provide the child with proper educational opportunities
- Which parent is most able to encourage and foster relationships between the child and family members, peers, and the other parent
- Which parent is most competent to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing including health decisions, educational decisions, and religious decisions
Child Custody Modification in Colorado
Even if the child custody arrangement is assigned by a Colorado judge, it is possible for one or both of the parents to request a modification to that arrangement. Courts generally try to keep child custody modifications to a minimum and only grant them when the need is truly important. This is because it is believed that too many disturbances to the children’s schedule can affect them negatively in an emotional and mental way. The parent who wishes to have the modification made will carry all of the responsibility of burden of proof when making the request, and they must prove the following:
- A change in circumstances makes the modification important
- The modification will benefit the children in some way
- The disturbances caused by the modification will be outweighed by the benefits the children will receive
Often times, proving these points can be rather difficult – the standards for a child custody modification are high to try and keep the modifications to a minimum in order to minimize the disruptions the children will endure during this time. If the child custody modification gives the children additional opportunities, improves their quality of life, or the parent’s financial situation, it is possible that the judge will approve the modification. It is also important to note that the non-requesting parents protest, if there is one, will be taken into consideration as well when the judge makes a decision.
Child Custody and Relocation in Colorado
Modifications to a custody agreement can be requested for a number of reasons – in some cases, it is because one parent got a new job or a different schedule that may require some changes to the original agreement. There are also times when a parent may even request permission for relocation if he or she gets a new job and this request will also have to go through the Colorado family court system. Some other reasons for relocation include wanting to be closer to family member or better educational opportunities for the children.
The judge will again be tasked with reviewing the relocation request and deciding whether or not having the children move with the custodial parent is within their best interest. Some of the factors that the judge will consider include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The ages and sexes of the children involved
- Whether or not any of the children have any educational or emotional special needs
- The relationships between the children and both the parent who is relocating and the parent who is not and how those relationships may be effected
- How the relocation will benefit the children (improving quality of life, more financial stability for parent, closer to family members, better educational opportunities, etc.)
- If the non-relocating parent has any protests to the relocation and why
- The coordination, cost and availability of communication methods that can be used by the children and the non-relocating parent
- If the children are older, taking their preferences for the relocation and which parent they wish to reside with into consideration