Child Custody & Parental Responsibilities

Child custody is oftentimes the most terrifying, contentious, and important part of a case. In a perfect world, cooler heads would prevail, and parents would agree on what is in the best interests of the children. Unfortunately, that does not always occur, and child custody attorneys are required.

Imagine going into a courtroom and convincing a judge that you are a “good parent” during a one or two-day trial. The adversarial system is not ideal for disputes over children. But judges are nonetheless required to make decisions about the best interests of the children involved. So, how do judges make those decisions?

Parental Relocation

What Will the Judge Consider?

Colorado no longer uses the term “child custody.” The legal term for “child custody” is now “parental responsibilities.” Instead of talking about physical and legal custody, courts now make decisions about “parenting time” and “decision-making.” There are several factors judges consider for each of these important decisions. Overall, the judge’s focus will be on the best interests of the child.

Parenting Time

Parenting time is what it sounds like; the amount of time each parent gets with his or her child. There are numerous ways the judge can allocate parenting time. Parents can split parenting time evenly, one parent can have the child for the school year and the other during the summer, one parent can have the child all of the time, or any other split in parenting time.

The judge will use Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-124(1.5)(a) to decide how to divide up parenting time. The factors the judge considers are:

  1. The wishes of the child’s parents as to parenting time;
  2. The wishes of the child if he or she is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to the parenting time schedule;
  3. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents, his or her siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
  4. The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community
  5. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability alone shall not be a basis to deny or restrict parenting time;
  6. The ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party; except that, if the court determines that a party is acting to protect the child from witnessing domestic violence or from being a victim of child abuse or neglect or domestic violence, the party’s protective actions shall not be considered with respect to this factor;
  7. Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support;
  8. The physical proximity of the parties to each other as this relates to the practical considerations of parenting time; and
  9. The ability of each party to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs.

Each of these factors plays an important role in the judge’s ultimate decision. For example, if the parents live nearby, both desire parenting time, and have both been supportive of their child, a judge will likely lean towards equal parenting time. However, if the parents live far apart and one parent has traditionally been the primary parent, a judge will likely allocate parenting time unevenly. That example might call for one parent to have the child during the school year and the other to have the child during the summer.

Decision-Making

Decision-making relates to which parent makes decisions for the child. The judge can order joint decision-making, meaning that the parents work together and consult each other to make decisions or award decision-making to one parent. Judges can also divide up decision-making based on a specific issue, such as education, health, religion, etc. The judge will use Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-124(1.5)(b) to decide how to allocate decision-making. The factors the judge uses to decide decision-making are:

  1. Credible evidence of the ability of the parties to cooperate and to make decisions jointly;
  2. Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support that would indicate an ability as mutual decision makers to provide a positive and nourishing relationship with the child;
  3. Whether an allocation of mutual decision-making responsibility on any one or a number of issues will promote more frequent or continuing contact between the child and each of the parties.

Generally, if the parents are able to work together, judges will award joint decision-making.

We Will Persuasively Tell Your Story

Every parent has a story to tell. Knowing a judge’s background and persuasively telling that story is key.

Kalamaya | Goscha has carved out a reputation as the child custody attorneys who can effectively tell a parent’s story. They are known for their work in highly contentious child custody disputes. They have dealt with a number of “relocation cases” where one parent wants to move away from the Roaring Fork Valley or the Western Slope.

Ryan, Amy, Georgina and Michael are candid with their clients and tell them when they are unreasonable. They understand the complexities of being a parent. If a case can be settled, they will do everything possible to make it happen. Mediators and other attorneys routinely ask them to share sections from the various parenting plans they have drafted on behalf of clients.

On the other hand, they are zealous advocates for their client’s position and they are not afraid to go to trial to obtain a good result for their client. They have worked with experts such as Child Family Investigators (CFIs), Parental Responsibility Evaluators (PREs), Parenting Coordinators, Decision-Makers, Child Legal Representatives (CLRs), Guardian Ad Litems (GALs), therapists, psychotherapists and counselors. They help marshal the relevant evidence for a child custody dispute with their knowledge on discovery of social media and experience in litigating custody cases.

You can also visit our page that provides pointers on the use of social media in custody cases or visit our blog post for more articles pertaining to child custody.