Divorce can be a difficult and emotional process for both parents and children, and one of the most challenging aspects is navigating the issue of child custody. When a marriage ends, the parents must determine how to divide their time and responsibilities for their children. This involves making decisions regarding where the child will live, how much time they will spend with each parent, and who will make decisions about their education, healthcare, and other important matters.

Types of Custody in Colorado

In Colorado, child custody is referred to as “parental responsibilities,” which includes both parenting time (physical custody) and decision-making responsibility (legal custody). The state encourages joint custody arrangements, believing it is generally in the best interests of the child to have regular and continuing contact with both parents, unless circumstances indicate otherwise.

The Best Interests of the Child Standard

The guiding principle in any custody dispute is the best interests of the child. According to C.R.S. § 14-10-124, the court will consider several factors when making custody determinations:

  • The wishes of the child’s parents as to parenting time
    • The wishes of the child if they are mature enough to express reasoned and independent preferences
    • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with their parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests
    • The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
    • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved
    • The ability of the parents to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other parent
    • Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support
    • The physical proximity of the parties to each other as this relates to the practical considerations of parenting time

Mediation and Court Intervention

Mediation can often be a helpful tool in reaching an agreement that is mutually beneficial and avoids the need for a court battle. Professional mediators assist both parents in discussing their concerns and negotiating terms that work for everyone involved. In some cases, mediation is required by the court before a custody hearing takes place.

However, if the parents are unable to come to an agreement, the court will decide based on the child’s best interests. Court intervention can be stressful, time-consuming, and expensive. During these proceedings, the court may order a custody evaluation conducted by a qualified expert who will assess each parent’s ability to meet the child’s needs and provide a comprehensive report to the judge.

Children’s Preferences

In some cases, the child may express a preference for living with one parent over the other, which can add further complexity to the situation. Colorado courts will consider the wishes of the child if they are of sufficient age and maturity. While there is no specific age at which a child can choose which parent to live with, older children who can articulate their preferences clearly and reasonably are more likely to have their wishes considered (C.R.S. § 14-10-124).

Modifying Custody Arrangements

Child custody arrangements are not set in stone and can be modified as the child’s needs and circumstances change. Either parent can request a modification if there is a significant change in circumstances. Common reasons for modification include relocation, changes in the child’s needs, or changes in a parent’s ability to provide care. The court will again use the best interests of the child standard when considering modifications (C.R.S. § 14-10-129).

Co-Parenting Strategies

Successfully navigating child custody requires both parents to work together and prioritize their child’s well-being. Effective co-parenting strategies include maintaining open communication, being flexible with schedules, and attending important events together when possible. It’s crucial to establish a respectful relationship with your co-parent, avoid speaking negatively about them in front of the child, and focus on creating a stable environment.

Putting Your Child First

Ultimately, the most important thing for both parents to remember is that their child’s well-being should be the top priority throughout the divorce process. By putting their child’s needs first and working together to create a positive co-parenting relationship, they can navigate the complexities of child custody and provide their child with the love and support they need during this difficult time.

If you need help navigating the child custody process during and after a divorce, attorney Brian B. Boal of the Boal Law Firm possesses the experience and skill necessary to obtain the desired custody modifications. Call at 719-602-2262 or email to discuss your modification case. Or visit Boal Law Firm to schedule your initial consultation with Brian B. Boal.

The law firm serves clients throughout El Paso County, Pueblo County, Teller County, and other counties across the Front Range region.

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