Colorado’s child custody laws are frequently disappointing to parents in a contentious child custody battle. Having appropriate expectations from the start is important when hiring a Denver Child Custody Attorney like Bonnie Shields. This article will help you understand the basics of child custody in Colorado, also called parental responsibility.
Fact 1: The Best Interests of the Child Always Wins
While you, the child and the other parent may all have preferences about the allocation of parenting time, the ultimate concern of the court is “What is in the best interests of the child?” This is the golden rule of Colorado child custody; from start to finish, this is the only concern that a Colorado Court will have. But how does a court determine the best interests of the child? The Court will consider all relevant facts, including:
- The Child’s Wishes
- The Parents’ Wishes
- The Child’s Relationship with each Parent and Other Important Figures
- The Child’s Adjustment to their School, Home and Community
- The Mental and Physical Health of Everyone Involved
Fact 2: Dirty Laundry May Not Be Important
In really contentious child custody battles there is a tendency to throw the other parent under the bus thinking this will cause them to lose parenting time or custody altogether. The Court will generally not be interested in dirty laundry just for the sake of making one parent look bad. Instead, Courts want to know primarily about factors that are relevant to determining the child’s best interests. Regardless of embarrassing incidents, like marital misconduct, a Court will generally not consider your dirty laundry relevant unless it reveals a physical or emotional danger to the child.
Fact 3: Joint Custody is Favored
Colorado strongly prefers that both parents be involved in the rearing of a child when possible. This means that courts tend to favor continuing and meaningful contact between the child and each parent unless there is a physical or emotional danger to the child. In light of this, it is generally preferable for parents to learn to get along well enough to share custody of the child. You will likely be transferring the child between each other, coordinating on holidays and special events and hoping for flexibility when plans need to change. When awarding joint custody the court will consider your relationship with the other parent, so a parent who is hostile to this circumstance or who disparages the other parent in front of the child may find the court isn’t on their side.
Fact 4: Child Support and Child Custody Are Separate Concepts
Child support payments are in part determined by how many overnights each parent is awarded in a parenting plan approved by the court. However, this is the extent of the inter-relationship between child support and child custody. If one parent stops paying child support, the other parent cannot withhold the children. Likewise, if one parent is withholding the children, the other parent cannot stop paying child support. The appropriate course of action in either situation is to contact Denver Family Law Attorney Bonnie Shields to file appropriate contempt paperwork with the courts.
Fact 5: A Mutually Agreed Upon Parenting Plan is Preferred
There are two ways that a court will allocate parental responsibility during a child custody case: (1) by holding an evidentiary hearing to determine the best interests of the child; or (2) by approving a parenting plan that was mutually agreed upon by the parents. Option (2) is always better when it is possible to set aside your differences and come to agreement. The reason is that a parenting plan created by the parents will typically be far more flexible and easy to live by than an order of the court imposed upon you with limited input and collaboration.
Learn More About Child Custody in Colorado
If you’re facing a child custody battle, call (303) 798-1927 or contact the Bonnie Shields Law Firm now to schedule your free consultation. Denver Child Custody Attorney Bonnie Shields can help you understand your rights in the Colorado child custody process.