While your relationship may be over, your commitment to your children never ends. Colorado child custody laws exist to protect your interests as a parent and the parent-child bond, regardless of whether you live under the same roof. However, the reality is that for most parents, a divorce or break-up means that your time with your children will be divided between you and your ex in some fashion. This can be a difficult new reality to face especially if you and your ex have different ideas about how parenting time or decision-making should be shared. Disputes are common, even when parents generally do have their children’s best interests in mind.
The child custody attorneys at Pomper Price, LLC in Denver understand that you simply cannot place a dollar value on the time that you get to spend with your children. You have rights as a parent when it comes to child custody matters, so you are at a disadvantage unless you have experienced legal counsel to help protect them. Please contact our Denver offices today at 720-780-8288 to set up a consultation with a member of our team. You might also find it helpful to review basic information about how child custody works in Colorado.
Overview of Colorado Child Custody Laws
While the same general concepts apply regarding your traditional understanding of child custody, Colorado now uses a new term: APR, which stands for the “allocation of parental responsibilities.” What is APR? Parental responsibilities include parenting time and decision-making-authority regarding the important issues involved with raising the child, such as:
- Health care
- Extracurricular activities
- Participation in religion
The general preference is for both parents to share in joint custody. The exception is where violence or the presence of other factors makes it appropriate for one parent to be in charge of parental responsibilities.
How Custody Questions Arise
In divorce cases with children, the court will divide marital property, address spousal maintenance and child support, and allocate parental responsibilities. The judge will enter an order regarding custody that will be in effect during divorce proceedings. The final divorce decree will also include the specifics on parental responsibilities.
However, questions regarding custody may also come up in connection with paternity matters. Once parentage is established through an affidavit, a paternity case, or by a government agency, both mother and father have the right to take on parental responsibilities. In cases where the parties have children but are unmarried, the case is simply referred to as an “APR” case. In such cases, the court will allocate parental responsibilities and address child support.
The Child’s Best Interests Standard
The court allocates parental responsibilities based upon several factors referred to as the “best interests” factors. These factors include but are not limited to:
- The parents’ ability to support the children’s relationship with the other parent
- The parents’ ability to place the children’s needs ahead of their own
- The past pattern of involvement between the parents and the children
- The wishes of the parents and, occasionally and where appropriate considering maturity level, the children
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and the community
- The child’s relationship with siblings and other individuals
- The geographic distance between the parents’ respective households
- Whether the parties can cooperate and make joint decisions
How Child Custody Impacts Other Legal Rights and Responsibilities
Allocating parental responsibilities refers to decision-making rather than where the child lives, but here is still the matter of residence. Every case is different, but an exact 50-50 split between the two parents’ homes is often impractical. Therefore, while parents may have joint custody and equally share parental responsibilities, one parent will usually have primary residential custody. The non-residential parent will have the right to exercise parenting time, which is familiarly known as visitation.
In addition, allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time may also impact child support. Even though Colorado applies statutory guidelines to calculate basic child support obligations, there are factors that could increase or decrease the amount. When the non-residential parent spends a substantial amount of parenting time with the child, the arrangement means less of a financial burden for the other. This could potentially justify a lower child support obligation.
Because of the ways allocation of parental responsibilities affects visitation and child support, it is important to rely on our team at Pomper Price, LLC. We can explain how Colorado child custody laws work, what they mean for your rights as a nonresidential parent, and the financial implications.
Options for Resolving Child Custody Issues
Not every child custody matter involves the type of drawn-out, bitter court battle you might see on TV and in film. You have options for addressing the allocation of parental responsibilities, including:
- Child Custody Agreements: Colorado law encourages compromise, so when the parents agree on how to allocate parental responsibilities, they can simply file a parenting plan with the court and ask that it be adopted as a court order. A judge will typically approve it as long as it complies with the child’s best interests standard.
- Minor Disputes: When the parents agree in principle but disagree on minor details, it can be helpful to ask for the appointment of an expert, such as a Child & Family Investigator (“CFI”) or a Parental Responsibilities Evaluator (“PRE”). These are court-appointed experts who investigate the disputed issues and then issue a report that includes recommendations to the court about how parental responsibilities should be allocated between the parents. For more about the differences between the two types of experts, please click here.
- Mediation: When parents are unable to smooth out custody issues, a court may order them to participate in mediation. During this proceeding, both parties and their attorneys will meet with a professional mediator who is specially trained in tactics that facilitate compromise. Mediation often results in an agreement on the allocation of parental responsibilities, so our lawyers can draw up the documents and enter the appropriate order. However, if you do not reach an accord, the mediator will not make a decision on custody. You will return to court for a hearing on the remaining disputes.
- Contested Child Custody Hearings: If disputes remain on some or all issues, a court must decide how to allocate parental responsibilities. A contested hearing is similar to a trial, in which each side has the opportunity to present testimony, arguments, and evidence in support of their respective positions. The judge will evaluate all information and apply the child’s best interests factors as designated by statute.
Legal Representation is Essential in Child Custody Cases
The stakes are high when it comes to your relationship with your child, so it is crucial to work with skilled legal counsel for child custody matters. Our team at Pomper Price, LLC is ready to support you in your goals regarding parental responsibilities, as well as the associated concepts of parenting time and child support. We can assist by:
- Advising you on the laws, particularly the details of the child’s best interests standard
- Helping you define your objectives concerning allocation of parental responsibilities
- Engaging in negotiations to reach an agreement on child custody
- Drafting essential documents regarding a custody agreement
- Reviewing any agreement or paperwork presented to you by your child’s other parent
- Requesting appointment of a CFI or PRE where appropriate
- Representing you during mediation if ordered by the court
- Advocating on your behalf at a contested hearing on parental responsibilities
Consult with a Colorado Child Custody Lawyer About Your Rights
This information touches on the basics of child custody in Colorado, but there are many additional details you need to know if you are facing questions regarding allocation of parental responsibilities. The attorneys at Pomper Price, LLC know that your children are the most important people in your life. That is why it’s critical for you to have experienced, knowledgeable, and aggressive representation by your side.
Whether in a divorce or paternity proceeding, our team is ready to assist with all aspects of child custody, including agreements, negotiations, mediation, and contested hearings in court. To learn more about your options, please call 720-780-8288 or contact us here to schedule a free, one-hour consultation with one of our attorneys today. We represent clients from Fort Collins to Colorado Springs out of our main offices in Denver and several satellite locations. Our attorneys can also schedule a virtual conference for your convenience.