LEGAL GUIDANCE THE WAY YOU WANT IT
What factors determine child custody?
In Colorado, child custody is called “allocation of parental responsibility,” sometimes abbreviated as APR. Like other divorce matters, APR can either be decided in court through litigation or outside of court through methods such as mediation. If court is making the final decision, they will base APR orders on the child’s best interests using a wide array of considerations.
“Best interests” take into account the child’s happiness, health, environmental stability, emotional development and other factors. To decide how responsibilities should be allocated, court will examine:
· Age of child
· Stability of home (not needing to move/travel much)
· Proximity and relationship to extended family
· School location
· Health of both parents
· Religious or cultural factors
· Special needs of child
In general, having both parents active in the child’s life is considered in their best interests. Traditionally, 50/50 splits of physical custody rights were common. Although it has become increasingly difficult to uphold this, since it is common for parents to live in different states and moving between homes frequently can be detrimental to a child’s development, other splits could be ordered. Again, final decisions will vary based on your unique case.
Outside of physical responsibilities, a large number of cases result in parents sharing decision-making ability in a child’s life. This means that, even after divorce, both parents usually have rights to make educational, medical, and other such decisions regarding their children.
There are situations that make it very unlikely for both parents to be allocated responsibilities over the child:
· Domestic violence against the child or spouse
· Any mental, emotional, or sexual abuse
· Drug use
· Alcohol abuse
If APR arrangements are not working well for your family situation or there are significant changes to your life that affect your ability to raise your children effectively, you can seek modifications to court orders. Parental responsibility is not set in stone. A skilled family law attorney can help you seek modifications that fit your circumstances and provide the best possible situation for your child.