CHILD CUSTODY LAWYER
FOR DOUGLAS COUNTY
Allocation of Parental Responsibilities
FOR THE SAKE OF COLORADO’S CHILDREN OF DIVORCE
Allocation of parental responsibilities is the legal term in Colorado that defines traditional roles of parenting when two unmarried people share a child. Allocation of parental responsibilities (APR) is what is used in a divorce that involved children or parents who were never married. APR is used to determine:
Parenting time or visitation
Under Colorado family law, every effort is made to keep both parents involved as much as possible, in the best interest of the child. It is very rare for Colorado family courts to intervene on couples who can manage their own parenting time and decision-making responsibilities. Under the eyes of the law, no parent is more important than the other, and only in extreme circumstances will either visitation or decision-making rights be revoked.
PARENTAL RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Each parent of a child has inherent rights that are protected by the law, regardless of circumstance or designation of parental responsibilities. These rights include:
- Parenting time
- Decision-making ability
- Right to discipline the child
- Right to manage and control the child’s earnings, income, and property
- Right to have the child bear the parent’s name
- Right to prevent adoption without parental consent
Parenting is a reciprocal relationship, because children are not property, but are living, breathing children who require nurture, love, and care. In addition to having rights as a parent, each parent also has responsibilities in raising the child. Having custody, or parenting time, does not simply include the physical location of the child, but requires a certain degree of care. Some responsibilities that a parent has to the child include (but are not limited to):
- Providing a safe living environment for the child.
- Safe, clean living space
- Their own bed in a bedroom with a window and door.
- Medical treatment.
- Educating the child.
- Religious exposure.
- Attentive care (or a third-party caretaker in the parent’s absence).
- Providing discipline.
- Feeding and clothing the child.
- Keeping the child reasonably safe from harm.
- Protecting the child from abuse, neglect, exploitation.
- Providing a safe place to play.
- Allowing child ownership over their own body.
- Allowing the involvement of both parents.
Parents do not have absolute power over their children under federal law and are subject to criminal punishment for violating their child’s rights by abandoning, abusing, exploiting, or neglecting their child.
Co-parenting and Colorado State Law
Colorado family law supports co-parenting and the inclusion of both parents in the child-rearing rights and responsibilities. As far as the state is concerned, there is no such thing as 50-50 parenting. Parents should be able to manage parenting time and decision making based on what is best for the child and most feasible for the living situation. For instance, if the parents live close to one another, the child should be able to freely visit each parent and have both parents at important events. However, if one parent lives in Arapahoe County while the other lives in Routt County, or even in another state, the parent where the child goes to school will likely have more physical custody.
It is important to understand that physical living arrangements do not influence decision-making. Each parent, regardless of which the child lives with, should be able to make decisions regarding education, discipline, religion, healthcare, and other child-rearing decisions. Unless parental rights have been revoked or there is a validated reason that one parent should have more decision-making ability, most decisions should be mutual, and mediators are available to help.
Parental Responsibilities Modifications
Rather than revoke the parental rights of a parent who has circumstances that make them unfit — abuse, substance addiction, poverty — Colorado family law makes provisions to still include the parent in the child’s life. Some of the modifications that may be made to parental responsibility designations include:
- Supervised visitation
- Modification to child support
- Counseling or mediation
- Temporary full-custody to the other parent
If your family needs to modify or change your parental responsibility plans, you can do so on your own if co-parenting is civil, or you can employ the legal services of a mediator or a trusted child custody attorney.
FOR A FAMILY LAWYER WHO PUTS YOUR FAMILY FIRST, CONTACT KELLI J. MALCOLM
The children of Colorado deserve loving, nurturing homes where they feel safe, loved, and valued. Colorado family law strives to help support a loving, family environment for all children, even those whose parents are separated or divorced.
Kelli J. Malcolm is a family lawyer in Aurora who has dedicated her legal career to helping support the best familial outcomes for families in Arapahoe, Denver, Douglas Adams, and Jefferson counties. She fights relentlessly to defend the rights of Colorado children and their parents. If you are in the middle of a divorce or you are attempting to co-parent with a difficult, toxic, or abusive co-parent, contact an experienced child custody lawyer near you — Kelli J. Malcolm. Schedule your complimentary consultation today!
When it comes to our children, we all want what is best for them, but what does that really mean? From a legal standpoint, in regard to child custody amidst a divorce, the best interest of the child takes several points into consideration including happiness, mental health, emotional support and development, security, and sometimes, the child’s wishes. While every case is different, and Colorado family courts consider the best interests of the child to include both parents, some of the touchpoints that will be considered includes:
- The caregiving provided before and during the current situation
- How the child may be affected when separated from each parent
- The ability of each parent to personally care for the child
- The physical, medical, behavioral, and developmental needs of the child
- Physical, medical, emotional, economic, and social conditions of each parent
- The presence or involvement of other people during a parent’s parenting time
- Child’s need to have healthy relationships with both parents
- Child’s need for consistency
- Distance between parents’ residences
- Age, developmental status, circumstances, and needs of children
- History of contact with the child by a parent
- The ability of parents to share in responsibilities, rights, and duties of parenting
- Wishes of the child
- Emotional and physical needs and dangers
- Parenting abilities of each parent
- Behavior of the parent toward the child
- Acts or omissions of the parent
Ultimately, the courts will take a holistic view of the relationship between the parents and children and the ability of each parent to meet the needs of the child to determine what the best interest of the child is. It’s important to note that Colorado family courts make every attempt to take a hands-off approach to intervening on parenting issues and make every effort to facilitate effective co-parenting or parallel parenting. Even in situations of domestic violence, Colorado recognizes the need for a relationship with both parents for the healthy development of children.
DETERMINING UNFIT HOMES OR PARENTS
The term “unfit parent” has historically been used to pit one parent against another in an emotionally-charged divorce where children are involved. In most marriages one parent is the default parent and feels like they do more, and are therefore more important to the welfare of the child. While this is certainly true in some cases, in the majority of cases, both parents serve an equal purpose, in different ways. However, when attempting to prove that one parent deserves more parenting time, or custody, each will recall what they do for the child and where the other one lacks. Colorado family court rarely awards one parent more time or rights to one parent over the other. However, the tragic truth is that some parents are simply legitimately unfit. Some things that can contribute to a parent being declared unfit include:
- Neglect of the child
- Physical abuse or intentional injury to the child
- Excessive use of, or dependence on, drugs or alcohol
- History of domestic violence and/or assaults against the child or in the presence of the child
- Presence of a mental illness that renders the parent unable to care for their child
- Serious bodily injury afflicted on the child
- Physical or sexual abuse towards the child
- History of violence or sexual assault
- Involvement in the injury or death of another child
- Involvement in previous cases of neglect or dependency
- Termination of parental rights ordered in another state or involving another child
What Does Declaring a Parent Unfit Mean?
It is a false belief that if a parent is declared unfit that they will relinquish all rights and parenting time of their children. The family courts of Colorado will examine each case individually to determine what the best interest of the child is and what the situation with the unfit parent is. In some rare cases, parenting rights may be revoked or all visitations may be supervised and overnights or being alone with the child may not be an option. To learn more about your rights and what your circumstances mean, connect with a family lawyer in Arapahoe County who is invested in what’s best for your family, connect with the Law Offices of Kelli J. Malcolm today.
WITH YOUR CHILD’S BEST INTERESTS AT HEART
Connect With Our Top Rated Local® Family Attorney
Make no mistake about it, there really is no such thing as “winning” a custody battle. No matter how much you love your child or how awful the other parent is, your child is the product of the two of you and will always feel a bond between both of you. As highly charged as a divorce may be and advocating for the best interests of yourself and your child, sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of or remember that your child loves both parents and always will.
Be mindful of what your children are thinking and feeling during your divorce and pay attention to what they are not saying. Some common questions that kids ask regarding divorce and custody include:
- What did I do wrong?
- Will they get back together?
- If they don’t love each other any more, do they still love me?
- What will I do after the divorce?
What Does Declaring a Parent Unfit Mean?
In a time of such emotional turmoil for you amidst a divorce, it can be hard to remember that your children don’t quite understand voluntary love or adult relationships and many things are black and white to them. Additionally, they hear and absorb everything, whether you say it aloud and they can sense your emotions that you aren’t even verbalizing.
Your child may feel bad about expressing joy or love for the other parent or act out in response to feeling neglected emotionally. Young children especially may not even realize the negative stress they are experiencing is grief over missing the other parent or feeling comfort in family security. When one parent begins dating another person, it may reignite any feelings of separation or perceived failure or betrayal. We cannot stress the importance of counseling and consistent communication with your children. Pitting your child against the other parent or using them as collateral in your divirce will only serve to create a divide between you and your child.
At the Law Offices of Kelli J. Malcolm, we can help you manage the legal aspects of your Colorado divorce and child custody issues so you can attend to the emotional well-being of your children. For a family attorney in Douglas and Arapahoe Counties that has your child’s best interest at heart, contact our legal team for a consultation today!
Fighting to Preserve Colorado Families
Allocation of parental responsibilities, or what most people know as child custody, is Colorado’s laws governing the care of children and the parents established legal responsibilities. Colorado laws err on the side of what is in the best interest of the child and that includes having both of their parents in their lives. Very rarely is “full custody” granted to one parent. When a divorce involves children or there is a co-parenting situation, it is wise to establish legal boundaries. While both parents are responsible for rearing their children, conflicts between parents often muddle things.
At the Law Offices of Kelli J. Malcolm, our family legal team works hard to preserve Colorado families and establish orders that are in the best interest of the child. For all of your family legal needs, contact us for your complimentary consultation
Legally known as allocation of parental responsibilities in Colorado, child custody is typically a strong point of contention in even the most amicable of divorces. Colorado child custody laws err on the side of co-parenting and strong negotiations between parents, with as little court involvement as possible. Child custody in Colorado is referred to as allocation of parental responsibilities because the term custody leans more toward possession of a stationary object rather than the continual ebb and flow of changing circumstances, relationships, and needs of children and their parents.
Colorado allocation of parental responsibilities is not an all-or-nothing court-ordered establishment of visitation versus custody as many other state family courts settle custody battles. In Colorado, parental responsibilities are legally divided into two categories, decision-making and parenting time. Decision-making responsibilities are usually divided evenly and include such things as where the child attends school, medical plans, etc. Parenting time is the time that each parent gets to spend with the child including visitations, overnights, living arrangements, vacations, travel, etc. If it is geographically possible, both parents should be involved as much as possible and share parenting time and responsibilities. Some factors that influence allocation of parental responsibilities include:
- Each parent’s ability to provide for the child — physically, emotionally, financially, etc.
- The schedule or availability of each parent.
- Geographical location of each parent in relation to the child’s school and other family.
- The best interests of the child.
- The parent’s living arrangements — including other people in the home, work-life balance, etc.
Each divorce in Colorado is unique and will have varying outcomes in regards to allocation of parental responsibilities. For an experienced family lawyer who can help navigate the complex Colorado family legal system, turn to the law firm that has the best interest of your family at the heart of their practice — the Law Office of Kelli J. Malcolm.
Divorce is tough for everyone involved, but becomes more difficult when children are caught in the middle. Even on the best terms, parents tend to become very emotionally charged in manners dealing with their children — and, rightfully so. When you are involved in a heated custody battle, it’s important to remain level-headed and mind your p’s and q’s. Being on your best behavior is important modeling for your children, but is also important for your own sanity, the emotional well-being of your children, but it can also affect the outcome of your case.
As experienced Colorado family lawyers fighting for the rights of Arapahoe County families, we’d like to offer you some tips on what to avoid during a custody battle.
Speaking poorly of the other parent
It is common that one (or both) parents speak ill of the other, especially in the height of a divorce, but it’s important to remember that not only is the other parent half of your child’s love and support system whom they love very much, but everything you say can (and will be) used against you in your custody hearing. Speaking poorly of the other parent can be used against you in open court and is generally looked down upon. Choose your words and watch your behavior during the custody battle.
Sharing company with those who will hinder your case
This is always sound advice, but even more important to heed when you are involved in a custody battle. The people that you surround yourself with are those that the courts will evaluate as those who your child will be exposed to when they are spending time with you. Factors that can have a negative impact on your custody case in relation to those you spend time with include:
- Living with someone who is required to register as a sex offender
- Being intimately involved with someone who has been convicted of spousal or child abuse
- Residing with someone who uses or abuses illicit substances, alcohol, or marijuana
Failing to make child support payments
We know it can be incredibly frustrating to make child support payments while the terms of your child custody case is still pending, but it’s important to pay whatever the courts say you should until it is changed. Failure to pay child support appears to the court as a lack of respect for the court and lack of concern for your children and can have serious negative consequences. Rest assured that if there was an error or things change, the courts will look favorably upon you making the payments that you did. Keep in mind that child support payments are for the needs of your children and are not payments made to the other parent. Modifications and corrections can be made later.
Removing children from daycare, school, or the area
Before your divorce and custody battle, you could have shown up to take your children on a surprise midday ice cream and playdate in the park as a special treat. Mid custody battle, however, such actions can, and most likely will be, viewed as parental kidnapping and show contempt for the court and blatant disrespect for the other parent. Save surprise rendezvous for later!
Refusing to cooperate or compromise with the other parent
Even though you may have strong negative feelings about the other parent or soon-to-be ex-spouse, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is putting those feelings in the way of caring for your children. Refusing to communicate in a reasonable way with the other parent could convey to the courts that you don’t care about your child’s well-being and are simply out to hurt the other parent and “win” the custody battle. In child custody cases, there are no winners and losers, just strong co-parents and those who use their kids as bargaining chips.
Taking your issues to social media
We really can’t stress this enough — social media is NOT the place to air your dirty laundry. Not in status, comments, posts, videos, images; not anywhere. Divorce is tough; child custody cases are tougher. Whatever you do, resist the urge to vent about it on social media. Anything you post is public property and can be used against you in your Colorado child custody case.
Disobeying a court order
Even if things are going well and you and the other parent are on agreeable terms, never break a court order. Not only will this be detrimental to your custody case, but it could land you in jail, or worse. Whether you think the court order is unfair, unnecessary, or out of date, breaking it is a violation of the law and will prove to the courts that you do not take the process, or your parenting responsibilities seriously. If you are in doubt, contact your family lawyer to discuss your options.
“Kelli knows her stuff. I had a brutal divorce with heartbreaking things happening, and Kelli got me and my little girl out safely to the other side. We had a relocation, heated custody issues, a child & family investigator, CPS, the police, and therapists involved-- but none of it would have turned out ok without Kelli's guidance and wisdom in knowing the legal proceedings for how it all works together and how to be prepared in the most professional manner. She was an invaluable part of helping me transition from a rock and a hard place to freedom and peace. I could not recommend her more highly!”
Stepping up to the parent you didn’t have to be is quite the noble undertaking, and not one that Colorado state law takes lightly. Of course, under the eyes of the law, biological parents will always have priority when it comes to caring for the child and their wishes. However, there are several circumstances where you can assert your rights in helping to raise your stepchild(ren).
As the new step-parent to children whose biological parents are involved in custody battle, you will have less rights than a stepparent who has been parenting a child and then divorces the biological parent, or worse, they die. However, it’s important to know that when it comes to determining the best interests of the child and child raising, you have more rights than you may think! Some of your rights include (but, are not limited to):
- The right to adopt your stepchild and become the legal parent (this may not be possible if both biological parents are active in the child’s life)
- The right to parent — you do have the right to be included in decisions such as the child’s education, medical treatment, and more.
- The right to visitation and custody to stepchildren in the event that you divorce the biological parent or they die.
Navigating stepparent rights in Colorado may be confusing and overwhelming, but the legal experts at the Law Offices of Kelli J. Malcolm are here to help! Connect with us today.
AT WHAT AGE CAN A CHILD DECIDE WHICH PARENT THEY WANT TO LIVE WITH IN COLORADO?
The judge ruling your allocation of parental responsibilities case will take the child's wishes into account at any age. A child between the ages of 12-14 will be given the opportunity to state which parent they would prefer to live with primarily.
CAN PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY BE TAKEN AWAY FROM A PARENT?
Generally speaking, the only way to remove parental responsibility from a parent is to make an application to the Court. Colorado family court honors the best interest of the child, which includes both parents unless there has been revocation of parental rights or the parent is deemed unfit.
AT WHAT AGE CAN A CHILD REFUSE VISITATION IN COLORADO?
Each child custody case is unique. In Colorado there is no concrete rule determining an age at which children are old enough to make custody decisions on their own. Most courts agree that age 14 is old enough to honor children’s requests in custody battles. If there is substantial evidence of abuse or emotional effects of visitation, this will be taken into consideration for younger children.
WHAT DO CUSTODY AGREEMENTS INCLUDE IN COLORADO?
Child custody arrangements in Colorado family law determines practical matters including living arrangements, as well as the moral guidance, upbringing, and decision-making responsibilities for a child.
Divorce is painful for everyone, but it is especially painful to see your children lose the cohesive family unit that they thought they would have forever. During the year in which you file for divorce, your workload increases at least twofold, and the smallest tasks can feel overwhelming, whether or not you have children. When…Read More
For those who are unfamiliar, a prenuptial agreement is a contract entered into by two people before they get married. This document outlines what will happen in the event of a divorce. It can be used to protect both parties involved or to simply outline the financial arrangement between them in case of a split.…Read More