Divorces are difficult for families on every level. They are emotionally draining and stressful for not only the couple involved, but also the children they may share. Children must get used to new ways of living and witness a declining relationship between their parents. To make matters worse, figuring out which parent has custody and what the custody laws mean could pose an even greater difficulty for the family.
When it comes to child custody, Colorado is a place that seeks to keep both parents in an active role with their children. That means that, as often as possible, courts will seek to provide parents equal time with their children. However, there are instances where that is not possible. Understanding the rights of both parents can help them remain an active part of the child’s life and keep each parent accountable.
The goal of any divorce involving children in Colorado is to equally share the responsibilities between the parents because it is in the best interests of the child. The state hopes that divorcing parents will effectively communicate with one another to make joint decisions on important parts of the child’s life like school, medical care, and even religious matters. While this arrangement is best for all parties, it is not always an available option.
The courts will consider a variety of factors when determining who is the custodial and non-custodial parent, including:
What does not play a role in the determination of custody is either the parent's gender or any disabilities they have.
Once there has been an agreement on custody through parental mediation or a court order, the rights and responsibilities for each parent become clear.
In a parenting agreement, the responsibilities of each parent are divided between them. The parental responsibility agreement will specify things such as:
All these factors are considered with one goal in mind: the best interests of the child.
In a situation where one parent has more custodial time than the other, the non-custodial parent may be issued a specific visitation schedule. However, they will ultimately be given a set amount of visitation time. Unfortunately, the schedule can be restrictive for the non-custodial parent if, for example, the custodial parent lives near the child’s school. By limiting visitation during the school year, a child can understand the importance of their education while also gaining important stability. To balance this, the parenting plan may include additional visitation during school breaks.
The schedule in the parenting plan can be impacted for a number of reasons. The non-custodial parent may have their visitation limited if they:
If a custodial parent needs to relocate, both parents must agree that they can do so. Under Colorado law, a parent may not remove a child from the state without an agreement from the other parent or a court order.
Even in situations where one parent has custody of the child, this does not mean there is an assumption of complete decision-making responsibility. Minor decisions can be made by whoever is with the child at the time. However, any major decisions that relate to education, health, religion, or general welfare should be made jointly and responsibly by both parents. By law, no matter who has custody, both parents are allowed access to the child’s medical and school records, along with other essential documents.
A custodial parent may not deny the visitation of a non-custodial parent with the child. Under the law, the visitation order issued by the court or through the agreement of the parents must be adhered to. However, when a child is old enough to make a mature decision, they may deny the non-custodial parent visitation.
Unlike other states, there is no statutory age at which children can make decisions when it comes to living arrangements with their parents and visitation with the parent with whom they don’t live. However, the law states that when a child is old enough to make mature and informed decisions, they are allowed to do so. Generally, this occurs once a child reaches the age of 14, but this is not a set standard.
The custodial parent is the parent who has custody of the child most of the time. Colorado does not use terminology such as "full custody," meaning that the decisions are also solely the responsibility of one parent over the other. The state seeks to give equal decision-making power to both parents.
Just like the age at which a child can make decisions, there is no set standard for this. Parents may live as far apart from one another as they agree to. If, however, the distance becomes an issue in determining custody, the court may intervene. While the distance is not set, there is some common sense to be used that parents should adhere to. One cannot reasonably live on the other side of the state and expect the child to continue to go back and forth every other week.
Custody and non-custody rights can be confusing and misinterpreted easily. If you have questions, Johnson Law Group, LLC, has the answers you are looking for. Contact our offices today and let us help you with your child custody case.