What is Child Custody?
In Colorado, child custody is called “allocation of parenting responsibilities” (APR for short). APR has two parts: decision making and parenting time. Decision making can be joint with both parents or solely vested with one parent (or some combination thereof). Parenting time can range anywhere from equal time to supervised only time in extreme circumstances. Colorado Courts must allocate APR “in the best interests of the children”. The term “best interests” is defined in Colorado Revised Statutes §14-10-124.
Most parents in divorce or custody cases agree on their own how to allocate decision making and parenting time. The agreement is written down in a document called a Parenting Plan and filed with the Court. The Court has the final say as to whether the plan will be adopted as a Court order but in 99% of cases, the Court will not reject a Parenting Plan that is agreed to by the parties and that the Court is convinced each party understands and agreed to of his or her own free will.
In the event parents are unable to agree on a Parenting Plan, then the Court is obligated to impose one.
Under C.R.S. §14-10-124, a Court may award joint decision making responsibility or sole decision making authority or some combination of the two. If the Court awards joint decision making for all major decisions (which is the most common order seen by this office), then both parents must agree on all major decisions involving their children. This includes where the children go to school, what doctors they see and what activities they participate in. US and State law dictate that each parent may expose the children to whatever religious training and beliefs they deem appropriate (even if the parents do not share the same beliefs). One parent can be awarded sole decision making for some or all major decisions if the Court finds the parties are simply unable to communicate or if there is a history of domestic violence or certain criminal convictions.
Unlike certain other states, Colorado does not have a presumptive parenting time plan. The court must consider many factors when determining what parenting plan to adopt (which are spelled out in C.R.S. §14-10-124). Some of the factors include: the parents’ wishes, the children’s wishes (if they are old enough to formulate and express such wishes), the past history of involvement (e.g. past parenting involvement such as who stayed home with the kids after they were born), and the ability to foster a loving and encouraging relationship with the other parent. Under Colorado law, no one factor is more important than another, however our office has seen, time and time again, that the past history of involvement (up to and including who the children reside with after the parents separate) is the single biggest predictor of what parenting time the Court is likely to order.
Allocation of parenting responsibilities is complicated as well as emotional. Attorney representation ensures that someone is advocating for you legally and is helping you manage your emotions and passion for your children in a manner that is productive and shows you in the best possible light with the Court. The attorneys at the 303 Law Center, PC have 14 years of experience handling hundreds of contested and non-contested APR cases. Call TODAY to schedule a consultation regarding your APR questions.