Anyone researching Denver family law may be surprised that Colorado law does not refer to custody. Instead, it refers to parental responsibilities.
In spite of this unusual title, any family lawyer will tell you that these parental responsibilities are assigned and divided based upon the best interests of the child.
Types of Child Custody in Colorado
There are multiple factors when it comes to determining custody. In the most severe cases when there is abandonment or severe misconduct on the part of one parent, a judge may order children to live full time with one parent with the other parent retaining no rights at all.
In other cases the judge will order 50/50 custody. This is when the child spends equal or close to equal time living with each parent. However, this can be a struggle to work out logistically. It can interfere with school and activity schedules and be disruptive to your offspring.
A more common option is to give both parents joint parental responsibilities. This means that each parent has a say in the child's upbringing. For instance, they may have equal or near equal say in educational and medical decisions, for example. In terms of where the child resides, they often live primarily with one parent while the other parent has scheduled visitation time.
Criteria for Determining Living Arrangements
Parenting time is the actual time the parent is physically with the child. As mentioned above, this may not be divided equally.
However, there are criteria that judges follow when determining the time each parent will receive. First, the wishes of the child and both parents are considered with weight given to the child’s words depending on their ability to understand the situation. The judge will also consider how supportive each parent will be of the child's relationship with the other parent. Practical matters on the table might include physical distance between households as well as whether or not parents live in the same school district.
Another criteria that is very important is each parent’s previous pattern of involvement with the child. An active parent who has long been the primary caregiver is more likely to receive majority parenting time. Parental conduct is also a factor as are support systems such as grandparents.
Joint Decision Making
One thing each Denver child custody attorney must help divorcing clients navigate is joint decision making.
Basically, in addition to where the child lives, the judge must determine how decision making responsibilities are divided. Key points here are how decisions were made previously, and whether or not the parents are capable of working together over major decisions. When parents cannot make decisions together, there are options such as mediators and decision makers. The courts may also decide the child is better off if one parent is given final authority in the event of a disagreement.
Keep in mind that joint decision making relates to major life decisions such as choice of school. Parents both have autonomy during parenting time to make decisions on common issues that crop up daily such as bedtimes, discipline, and school work.
Even when divorcing parents believe they can get along with one another, both parties should seek legal advice when it comes to child custody. Contact our family law attorneys today for further advice on joint custody issues.