Have a Colorado child custody issue? Need to review or revise your current child custody court order? Our team of Colorado Springs child custody attorneys at Knies, Helland & McPherson Law are here to help make sure you get what is fair and right for you and your child/children.
Custody can be a complicated family law issue, so it is important to not only take the time to understand it yourself but to also work with a law firm, like Knies, Helland & McPherson Law, that has experience with child custody in Colorado. Custody laws are based on state laws and differ depending on the state in which you reside. Knowing the basics of what is involved when it comes to custody will go a long way toward helping you understand your rights and those of your child.
In Colorado, the word custody has been omitted from the law governing the division of parenting time and decision-making. The legislature replaced all references to custody with the words Allocation of Parental Responsibilities. This allocation includes parenting time and decision-making.
For help understanding Colorado child custody laws, contact our Colorado Springs child custody lawyers today.
What Is Child Custody in Colorado?
When a couple divorces, the divorce decree states what the parenting time allocation will be between the parties. Often times it includes words like “primary parent” and “visitation.” Divorcing couples often make these arrangements between themselves, either voluntarily or with the assistance of an attorney or mediator. However, if the two parties are unable to reach an agreement, the court will intervene and grant custody based on the child’s (or children’s) best interests.
Several factors are taken into consideration when determining custody, which are outlined in Colorado law. Collectively, these factors are called the “best interest” of the child, with none of the factors weighing more heavily than others. Some factors are fairly obvious, while others can be difficult to define and measure. In many cases, who has been the primary caretaker is important, although oftentimes divorcing couples disagree about the level of involvement of each parent. Our Colorado Springs child custody lawyers, being parents themselves, recognize that the roles of parenting are different in each family, and, generally, roles and tasks in an intact family look very different from those of a separating family. If the child is of sufficient maturity, the court may also take his or her preference into account, although very few judges will allow a child to speak directly to them when parenting time is at stake and a parenting professional is needed. There is no age at which a child may decide for himself or herself where they would like to live.
The specific “best interest” standard varies by state, but in Colorado the factors used to analyze this determination include:
- The wishes of the parents.
- The wishes of the child, if of sufficient maturity to give a well-reasoned and independent opinion.
- The health of the parents, both mental and physical (including substance abuse).
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community.
- The existing interaction and relationship with other members of the household and each parent.
- The ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love and affection between the child and parents.
- The past pattern of involvement of each parent in childrearing.
- The ability of the parties to mutually support one another.
- The ability of the parties to place the children’s needs above their own.
- The physical proximity of the parties.
- The presence or absence of any child abuse and neglect.
- The presence or absence of a history of domestic violence between the parties.
How Does the Court Allocate Parental Responsibilities?
In each case involving children, the court will allocate parental responsibilities (custody).
The two types are:
- Parenting Time – Primary Parent or physical custody (in other states) is granted when a parent is given the right to have the child reside a majority of the time with him or her. This generally involves the child living primarily with one parent and having periodic visitations with the other. The parent with whom the child lives is known as the custodial parent in some states but as the primary parent in Colorado, whereas the parent who has less than 50% of the child’s available time is labeled as the visiting parent; and
- Decision Making or legal custody (in other states) of a child involves have the legal right to make decisions regarding your child’s upbringing. A parent who has been granted decision-making responsibility is court-ordered to help make decisions involving the child’s schooling, religious involvement, and medical care. Many states award joint decision-making. In Colorado, certain facts cause a court not to award joint decision-making responsibility; thus speaking in detail with your attorney in your initial interview about the details and history of your relationship is critical.
Is Colorado a “Mother State”?
There is nothing in Colorado's “best interest of the child” statute that states that there is preference for mothers over fathers, or vice versa. So, in theory, Colorado courts are gender neutral when applying the statute to determining parenting time.
However, the “best interests of the child” statute contains several factors that may sometimes “swing” towards mothers, particularly households where the father works outside of the home as the sole provider for the family, while the mother stays at home to care for the children and household. When a separation occurs in a family like this, several “best interest” factors are implicated that may lead to mothers having more parenting time, such as:
- Their role as primary care-giver;
- The need to make day-to-day decisions about the kids without the father present;
- Their personal understanding of each child’s daily routine; and
- The one-on-one bonding time throughout the day.
In other cases, both parents may work outside of the home or the father may be the one to stay home with the children. Because of this, the “best interest of the child” statute requires an in-depth look into each family to best determine the most optimal outcome for the children. The assumption that mothers necessarily have the advantage in a custody determination is not always the case in Colorado.
Make sure that you and your attorney educate the courts on your family structure, as well as present evidence on all of the best interest factors.
What Is a Colorado Emergency Custody Order?
A Colorado emergency custody order is a provision mandated by state law to protect children from harm. That harm may be in the form of neglect, abuse, kidnapping, sudden death, or incapacitation of one or both parents. In the event of one of the aforementioned, the court steps in and issues a temporary allocation of parenting time order to make sure someone is legally bound to care for the needs of your child.
Typically, parents are only legally allowed to file for custody in the state in which the child has resided for the previous six months. However, there are special provisions for emergency custody concerns. For example, if you and your child have been forced to flee from your home state due to a threat to your child’s welfare from the other parent, the state to which you fled may utilize its emergency jurisdictional authority to decree a temporary custody order until a more permanent solution is reached. Getting an emergency custody order can be difficult, though, so you should speak with a child custody attorney from Knies, Helland & McPherson Law in Colorado Springs and the Greater Denver Area before filing with the court.
When Should I File for Child Custody?
An allocation of parental responsibilities (child custody) is typically granted in the event of a divorce or when couples have never been married. If you are no longer cohabiting with your spouse or significant other with whom you have a child and you are unable to come to an agreement as to whom is primarily responsible for your child, then it is in your best interest to file for court-ordered custody. Putting the child in the middle and withholding a child from the other party without a court order can have a negative outcome on your entire case – thus getting an order in place is necessary. Likewise, if you suspect neglect or abuse on the part of your spouse or significant other, it is important to take legal action to protect your child’s safety. In any case, though, it is best to speak with a qualified child custody lawyer in Colorado Springs and the Greater Denver Area to help you decide how to proceed.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Help My Child Custody Case?
Allocation of parental responsibilities cases can be extremely complicated, so it is best to find an experienced lawyer, like those at Knies, Helland & McPherson Law, to help you. Not only will a trustworthy attorney be able to explain the ins and outs of the laws to you, but he or she will also be able to serve as your advocate in your case. It is important that you work with an experienced child custody attorney who has experience with custody and/or domestic cases in Colorado Springs and the Greater Denver Area.
What Factors Can Alter a Parenting Plan?
If the current parenting plan arrangement is no longer working for you, you may need to request a modification of parenting time. The court may scrutinize your request for the change before ordering a change, but there are several instances in which a change in custody is in your child’s best interest, these include:
- If your child is in immediate danger
- If either parent is physically relocating causing the current parenting time plan to no longer be appropriate for the physical proximity of the parties
- If one of the involved parties is violating the agreed-upon arrangement
- If one of the parents dies
- If the parties agree or the child has been integrated into the home of the other
- If there have been new facts that have arisen since the last custody order which cause the current plan to no longer be in the child’s best interest
Prior to requesting a court-appointed change to parenting time, it is in your best interest to attempt to communicate with the other parent of your child to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. Likewise, you may want to consider mediation or arbitration before taking the change proceedings into the courtroom or hire a parenting expert to pronounce what is in your child’s best interest and developmentally appropriate. In any case, a child custody lawyer throughout Colorado Springs can guide you on how to best proceed.
Parenting time is never an easy or simple solution. There are several factors and many different parties involved, so working with a child custody attorney in Colorado Springs and the Greater Denver Area at Knies, Helland & McPherson Law is generally your best option. Doing so will help you ensure that you are not only protecting your parental rights but also securing the best outcome for your child. Our attorneys also offer a la carte services: We can review your existing orders to determine where things may need to change after hearing your situation and offer services to assist you in drafting a clear order for the future of your family.
Contact Our Firm for Child Custody Help in Colorado
At Knies, Helland & McPherson Law, our Colorado Springs child custody attorneys are here to help you. We will help you create a custody arrangement that works with your schedule and is in your child’s best interests.
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