Parental Responsibilities in Colorado
Child custody laws, known as parental responsibilities in Colorado, refer to the decisions on who children will live with, who makes major life decisions, and what parenting time or visitation will take place. These parental responsibilities are based on what is in the best interest of the child(ren) and take into consideration the parent’s and child’s wishes, the emotional bonds that exist, and the school and neighborhood. In the state of Colorado, no one parent is considered a better or more fit parent based on their gender, career, or income.
Whether parental responsibility or child custody, decisions are required due to parental separation or divorce, domestic violence, or change in family status; the courts will be involved and each parent should have legal representation. In matters dealing with children, no matter how amicable the parents are toward each other, things are emotional by nature and can easily become tense or heated. It is important to have a mediator and a non-biased third-party included to advocate for everyone’s best interest, especially the children.
At the Law Offices of Kelli J. Malcolm, our family law legal team is one of the most experienced in child custody cases in Denver. Contact us for your free legal consultation today!
Physical Custody versus Legal Custody
When it comes to legal parental responsibilities, it is important to understand the different types of custody and responsibilities that are determined by the family court. In Colorado, the term shared custody refers to the physical living arrangement between parents’ households. Although physical custody is shared, it is not necessarily equal. A schedule is set based on the child’s best interest including the availability of the parent, the child’s school schedule, and the ability of each parent to care for the child.
The term joint custody refers to decision making. While the child may not live with one parent full-time, the responsibility of making decisions — where the child will attend school, medical decisions, and religious upbringing — is shared by both parents.
Sole physical or legal custody is rarely awarded to one parent, except in severe cases when one parent is found to have committed domestic violence — physical, sexual, or emotional — against the child or the child witnessed abuse against the other parent, one parent is proven to be unfit or is not interested in taking parental responsibilities. A parent can be found unfit based on the inability to set age-appropriate limits, inability to care for the child’s needs, previous involvement in the child’s care, substance abuse, and indifference to the child.
The Child’s Best Interest
Child custody and parental responsibility determinations are always made with the child(ren)’s best interest in the forefront. Unlike other states, Colorado family court judges will listen to the child’s wishes so long as the child is mature enough to have an independent opinion. It is important to understand that the child’s wishes are taken into consideration, but the judge will have the ultimate decision.
Matters that help determine what’s in the child’s best interest include:
- Health and safety
- Emotional and developmental needs
- Parenting abilities
- Stability of the parent’s home
- History of domestic violence
When it comes to your child and your child’s best interest, it does not always match your personal wants. For a child custody lawyer in Denver who has your child’s best interest at heart, contact the Law Offices of Kelli J. Malcolm today.
One or both parents may be required to pay child support to the other parent to help cover the joint costs of raising the child. Child support is based on the physical custody of the child and each parent’s income. Child support is meant to help with the needs of the child including covering the costs of feeding the child, educational expenses, health insurance, clothes, maintaining a safe home, and recreational activities. There is no set amount of child support and each case will be evaluated based on its unique circumstances. For more information, click here.
For help determining child support entitlements in Colorado’s family courts, contact the experienced legal team at the Law Offices of Kelli J. Malcolm today!
In Colorado, the term “parenting time” is used to include all of the time that covers a child’s life and care. This includes where the children live, parenting schedules, and time that is spent with children. In lieu of custody and visitation, Colorado acknowledges parental responsibilities. This helps put emphasis on the family and the welfare of the child as much more than just a schedule of when the child will be at each parent’s home.
Colorado state law encourages co-parenting and the least court influence on parental schedules as possible. Additionally, under Colorado law, it is very uncommon for one parent to have “more custody” than the other parent.
Circumstances in which one parent may have more time awarded with a child than the other may include:
- One parent wants less (or no) time.
- One parent is less “fit” — a history of domestic violence or substance abuse issues.
- Parents working schedule.
- The child is a teenager and makes their wishes known.
- The geographical location and distance between parents.
Special Circumstances That Affect Parenting Time
Life happens, and life with children is often busy. The Colorado child custody laws and family courts make every attempt to make splitting parenting time evenly, or as evenly as possible, this also means special events and occasions. Some special circumstances that may affect parenting time include holidays, weekends, school breaks, and birthdays or family holidays. These special times may make coordinating care a little more challenging. It is important to be mindful of what is in the child’s best interest and make these days special for the child rather than “equal” parenting time.
If you and your spouse have difficulty co-parenting or you are co-parenting with a difficult or toxic partner, contact an experienced child custody lawyer in Denver — Kelli J. Malcolm. At the Law Offices of Kelli J. Malcolm, we make every attempt to make child custody battles easy on your child and fight for your child’s best interest. Contact us to schedule your complimentary consultation today!