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Child Protection

Best Interest Of The Child

When Colorado courts are tasked with making an initial determination of parenting time (formerly known as “physical custody”), the standard they must apply is “best interests of the child.”  But what is “best interests?”  There are several best interest factors that the Court will take into consideration and use when formulating a parenting plan.  It is necessary to always keep these factors, outlined below, in mind during your custody matter:

1.   The wishes of the child’s parents as to parenting time:

Of course, the parents’ wishes as to parenting time will always be taken into consideration.  Keep in mind that it is important for the Court to see that you are acting in the child’s best interests with your parenting time request.  Don’t be fooled, though.  What you want is nowhere near the most important factor.

2.   The wishes of the child if he or she is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to the parenting time schedule:

Contrary to popular belief, there is no set age in Colorado when the Court will consider or follow the wishes of the child.  A Court will only take the child’s wishes into consideration if the Court believes they are mature enough to express a preferred parenting time schedule.  Court’s don’t like to involve kids.  Asking kids who they prefer makes them chose one parent over the other.  That act of choosing can have life long consequences.

3.   The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents, his or her siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests:

The Court will take into consideration your child’s relationship with you, the other parent, any step or half-siblings, etc.  Relationships are important for kids.  Brothers and sisters provide needed support.

4.   The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community:

The Court will consider your child’s neighborhood and her attachment to the neighborhood and community, how your child is doing in school and at home, etc.  Judges like to keep kids in their community whenever possible.

5.   The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability alone shall not be a basis to deny or restrict parenting time:

Unless you or the other parent suffers from a mental or physical health issue, this factor will not be relevant.  Drug and alcohol use may be relevant.  Any signs of abuse will quickly get the court’s attention.

6.   The ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party; except that, if the court determines that a party is acting to protect the child from witnessing domestic violence or from being a victim of child abuse or neglect or domestic violence, the party’s protective actions shall not be considered with respect to this factor:

This is an extremely important factor for the Court to consider.  If you can’t encourage a relationship between your child and the other parent, the Court may not make you the majority parent.

7.   Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support:

This is another crucial factor in the “best interests” standard.  The Court will look at each parent’s involvement in raising your child.  This includes day-to-day care and raising the child with values and morality.

8.   The physical proximity of the parties to each other as this relates to the practical considerations of parenting time:

This is only a relevant factor if you and the other parent live a significant distance away from each other.  If so, the Court will need to consider the distance the child will have to travel.   Travel time is relevant to how practical a parenting time schedule would be given the distance.

9.   The ability of each party to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs:

This is an extremely important factor.  The Court will want to know that you always place your child first.  Are you acting in a selfish or vindictive manner when making a certain parenting time request?  Or is your motive to benefit the children?

“Best Interests” will always guide the Courts in making a parenting time determination for your child.  It is important to know these factors and focus on them during your case.  If you’re currently facing a custody matter, please contact our firm to schedule a free consultation, where we will be able to discuss in detail how the best interest standard applies to your unique case.

Posted January 20, 2017
by: MFL Team

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