LAW OFFICES OF KELLI J. MALCOLM
BRINGING LAW TO THE PEOPLE
Money is an emotionally fraught subject in divorce cases; you can probably think of celebrities who have spent years in court, battling it out over their multimillion-dollar fortune, and perhaps you have a friend who is still bitter about how much money his ex-wife walked away with in their divorce and who blames her for the facts that his bank account balance has never returned to where it was before she told him she wanted a divorce. The emotions attached to money pale in comparison to how angry and frightened divorced people feel about their relationship with their children. Ex-spouses try to manipulate each other by threatening to take the children away from each other, and they blame their ex for the children’s every misbehavior and every bad mood. Judges have heard it all before, and they will not share your ex-spouse’s outrage about the fact that you are engaged to be remarried or your ex’s efforts to upend your plans for Christmas because, at the last minute, she bought tickets for herself and the children to attend her cousin’s destination wedding. Just as with the division of marital property, you should approach the issue of requesting parenting time strategically and, to whatever extent possible, dissociate your anger over past hurts from it. For help drafting or modifying a parenting plan, contact an Aurora child custody lawyer.
How Does the Court Determine Which Parent Gets Which Days With the Children?
Every divorce case is unique, but something common to all divorce cases where the couple has minor children together is that, in legally dissolving the marriage, the court must issue a court-ordered parenting plan. In most cases, the parties agree to the terms of the parenting plan, and the court simply signs off on it to make it official and legally enforceable. It is not a matter of one parent having custody of the children at the other’s expense. Colorado laws about parenting time follow the principle that it is in the best interests of children for them to spend time with both parents and for both parents to share the authority to make decisions about the children’s upbringing. The parenting plan addresses the time-sharing schedule and decision-making power regarding children’s education and extracurricular activities. It does not address the parents’ respective financial responsibilities toward the children; this is the province of the child support order, which the court can only issue once it has received the parenting plan and can determine which parent is with the children on which days of the year.
Most of the time, the parents agree between themselves during divorce mediation about a parenting schedule. There is no universal rule about which days should be designated for which parent. It will probably be obvious to you and your ex-spouse what kind of schedule would work best with your family, given your work schedules and your children’s school schedules and activities. With younger children, it is often possible for the parents to share parenting time equally, for example, on a 2-2-3 rotating schedule, but few families are able to abide by such a schedule once the children enter school.
If you and your ex-spouse cannot reach an agreement about parenting time, the court will decide, after making findings, to determine the children’s best interests. In most cases, it determines that both parents are capable of providing adequate care. It aims for continuity, so it will likely choose the option where the children do not have to move to a new residence or change schools if such an option exists. It counts against you if you speak ill of your ex-spouse in front of your children or if you put the children in dangerous situations, such as being under the influence of alcohol, cannabis, or illegal drugs when they are with you.
Be Flexible When Negotiating With Your Ex-Spouse During Divorce Mediation
Most divorce cases, including those where the parties are the parents of minor children, do not go to trial. Even if neither you nor your ex ends up with every single day of parenting time that you were hoping to get, you can probably reach a compromise with the help of your lawyers. For example, if both you and your ex are emotionally attached to the idea of spending Thanksgiving weekend with the children, there are several possible compromise solutions. Perhaps the children can be with Mom on Thanksgiving weekend in odd-numbered years and with Dad in even-numbered years; this works best if one or both parents like to travel during Thanksgiving. If you both have extended family in town, then the best solution might be having the children spend Thanksgiving with Mom and Black Friday with Dad in odd-numbered years and the other way around in even-numbered years. Remember that the goal of divorce mediation is not to win and to make your ex-spouse lose; instead, it is to arrive at a parenting plan that you both find tolerable.
Hire a Lawyer to Help You Stand Up for Yourself
Even if your divorce case does not go to trial, you should still hire a lawyer. Not only can your lawyer help propose compromise solutions during mediation, but he or she can also help you resist pressure from your ex to give up your claims to the days of parenting time that are most important to you. For example, if you want the children to be with you every year on the Fourth of July weekend because your birthday is also on the Fourth of July, it is easier not to let your ex bully you out of this if you have your lawyer with you.
A Child Custody Lawyer Can Make Divorce Mediation Less Stressful
If you are going through a divorce in Colorado’s Front Range, an experienced family law attorney can help you achieve a parenting plan that works well for your family. Contact the Law Offices of Kelli J. Malcolm LLC to discuss your case.