Are Mothers More Likely To Get Child Custody During Divorce?
Whether or not your parents got divorced, your mother probably spent more time bathing, dressing, and toilet training you when you were a young child than your father did. When you were in school, your mother probably knew more details than your father about your classwork and classmates. Whether because of social expectations or by personal choice, mothers often spend more time with their minor children than fathers do, and fathers’ contributions to their children’s upbringing are often undervalued, as is the emotional connection between a father and his children. It does not have to be this way, and Colorado law does not automatically give preference to mothers when allocating parenting time after a divorce; in fact, the gender of the parent or child does not factor into the court’s decision at all. Despite this, there are more divorced mothers who spend more than 200 days per year with their children than there are divorced fathers who have this much parenting time. Families and judges decide on a case-by-case basis what is most appropriate for each family. The first step toward getting the best outcome for your family is to contact an Aurora child custody lawyer.
How Family Law Courts Make Decisions About Parenting Time
Parents often speak of being afraid of losing custody of their children or of not wanting their ex-spouse to get custody, but this is not really how divorce cases work. Rarely does only one parent get full custody of the couple’s minor children, considering that custody includes both decision-making power and residing with the children. Instead, in every divorce case where the spouses have at least one child together who is a minor, the court issues a parenting plan. The parenting plan includes a detailed schedule of which parent will be with the children on which days of the year and which how the parents will divide their responsibilities regarding decisions about the children’s education, extracurricular activities, and non-emergency medical treatment. Parenting plans include details about holidays and transportation, but they do not address any financial issues. The distribution of parenting time influences the amount of child support, not the other way around.
When parents cannot agree on a parenting plan, a judge decides at the conclusion of the divorce trial how to allocate the parenting time. A judge might also issue a new parenting plan if one parent files a motion to modify an existing parenting plan but the other disagrees about how best to modify it. When this happens, the court must make findings about the child’s best interests. These are some factors that the court considers when deciding parenting time disputes:
- Continuity – The court seeks to minimize disruption in the children’s lives, so when possible, it has the children reside on school days with a parent who lives in the children’s current school district.
- Safety – If the children have been unsafe while under your care, this counts against you. For example, it counts against you if you leave children home alone when they are too young or if there are illegal drugs at your house. Having a chronic illness does not make you an unfit parent, but you need a plan for how to provide for your own medical needs and your caregiving responsibilities to your children.
- Agreeableness – The court holds it against parents when they try to sabotage the children’s relationship with the other parent.
- Preference – The courts may consider the children’s reasonable preference for teenagers regarding parenting time. For example, a 15-year-old may tell the court that he prefers to spend the majority of the time with his mother and stepfather because he does not get along with his stepmother and because he has his own bedroom at his mother’s house, unlike at his father’s house, and the court will weigh his wishes against other factors.
No two cases are alike, but the courts’ decisions about parenting time are always gender-neutral.
Most of the Time, the Parents, Not the Courts, Decide Who Gets the Majority of the Parenting Time
The chances are relatively low that a judge will even decide which parent gets the majority of the parenting time in your family. Most couples are able to decide this during divorce mediation. It is probably obvious to you and your spouse what kind of parenting schedule would work best for your family. If you both live close to your children’s school, then a 2-2-3 or 3-3-4-4 schedule might be feasible, but it may be the case that, due to your work schedule and place of residence, it is easiest if the children stay with your ex-spouse on school nights.
What Fathers Can Do to Get the Courts to Award Them More Parenting Time
You have the right to argue your case before the court to demonstrate that you deserve more parenting time than the court has given you. The best way to do this is to propose a feasible plan for how the new parenting schedule will work. For example, if you want the children to stay with you from Friday evenings until Sunday evenings instead of Saturday afternoons until Sunday evenings, show that you can drive the children to and from soccer practice on Saturday mornings. If you will be working on Saturday mornings, plan for your wife or your father to drive the children to and from soccer practice.
It is also important to comply with your current parenting plan and child support order as much as you are able. If your ex-spouse is making it difficult for you to exercise your parenting time, such as by dropping the children off at your house hours later than what the parenting plan indicates, document this in detail.
A Child Custody Lawyer Can Make Co-Parenting Less Stressful
If you are going through a divorce in Colorado’s Front Range, an experienced family law attorney can help you formalize or modify a parenting plan that works well for your family. Contact the Law Offices of Kelli J. Malcolm LLC to discuss your case.