If you have children, and you’re getting divorced, legally separated, or having your marriage annulled, Colorado courts will have to make a ruling on child custody, visitation, and what is known as “parenting rights and responsibilities,” chiefly by applying the legal principle of “the best interests of the children.” If you and your ex-spouse have an uncontested divorce the matter much easier: the court will only have to review the agreement, and if it finds that the agreement is in the best interests of the child, they will endorse it. If the divorce is contested, the court will have to make the final decision based on the evidence presented by both parties.
Taking the best interests of the children into account is not always so easy because a variety of factors must be considered, one of which is the distance between the parents’ domiciles. If the parents live in the same town or a nearby town, the relationship between the children and the parents seems solid, and neither parent appears deficient in their parental responsibilities, the judge may award joint custody so that the contact between the children and the parents remains constant and equitable. If joint custody is not an option, the court may allow for visitation rights to one parent and primary custodial rights to the other. If the child is over 12, the court may take into account which parent the child wants to live with, but their choice is not binding.
In an attempt to modernize child custody laws, the term “custody” is no longer used. The new term, ” allocation of parental responsibility” or “allocation of decision-making responsibility”, reflects the fact that children are not property and that the parents should share responsibility for their child’s upbringing. Allocation of parenting responsibility can take two forms. The first is a situation in which parents make all major decisions in consultation with each other. The second is one in which the major decisions are “divied up,” and each parent makes their own decision on specific areas pertinent to the child the responsibility of one parent. For example, one parent makes the decision on the education of their child, and the other makes a decision on which religion the child will be brought up in. These allocations will be based on things like how much time each respective parent spends with the children, their financial situation, etc . Child custody is one of the stickier points of a divorce, so you need to make sure your child custody rights are protected when you get a divorce. Van Der Jagt Law firm is a Denver child custody attorney serving the metropolitan area. We have helped hundreds of parents through the intricacies of the Colorado family law courts. Call us for a free 30 minute consultation, or fill out the form on the right for more information.