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Custody

How Courts Determine Custody in Denver

Child custody is one of the most difficult aspects of family law and can be one of the most stressful for families. Your child’s wellbeing is at the forefront of every issue, and Colorado Courts recognize that concern. The process for determining child custody can be long and difficult, but the goal is to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child. Thus, Colorado has in place a series of laws and procedures for determining child custody.

The General Rule

As the general rule, a court will try to ensure that both parties share parenting time 50/50. That is the default position of the court, as courts prefer that both parents be as involved as possible for the benefit of the child. However, there are instances where that simply isn’t possible, and it is more beneficial for one parent to be the primary caretaker of the child. It can be possible to give one parent more parenting time and decision-making than the other, such as education, medical, or religious upbringing. Courts make these determinations based on several factors, but it all comes back to a principle known as the best interest of the child.

Best Interests of the Child

The cornerstone of Colorado child custody law is a standard known as the best interests of the child. In every case, Colorado courts will look to what is best for the child in determining custody and parenting time. This standard is enumerated in Colorado Revised Statute § 14-10-124. In determining parenting time, the court will give the highest consideration to the child’s safety and the physical, mental, and emotional needs of the child. Aside from these three main factors, the court will also consider the following relevant factors:

(I) The wishes of the child’s parents as to parenting time;

(II) The wishes of the child if he or she is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to the parenting time schedule;

(III) 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;

(IV) The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;

(V) 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;

(VI) 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;

(VII) Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support;

(VIII) The physical proximity of the parties to each other as this relates to the practical considerations of parenting time;

(IX)  Repealed

(X) Repealed

(XI) The ability of each party to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs.”

While all of these factors need not be present to have parenting time awarded, they are the basis of forming an argument as to why it is in the best interests of a child to have a particular parenting plan. The second part of determining child custody is the assignment of decision-making. Here, the court will again apply the best interest of the child standard, but it provides a separate list for what factors are to be considered when awarding decision making.

(I) Credible evidence of the ability of the parties to cooperate and to make decisions jointly;

(II) Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support that would indicate an ability as mutual decision-makers to provide a positive and nourishing relationship with the child;

(III) Whether an allocation of mutual decision-making responsibility on anyone or a number of issues will promote more frequent or continuing contact between the child and each of the parties.”

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Child Family Investigators

Occasionally, it is best to hire what is known as a Child Family Investigator (CFI) to assist in your case. Children are not permitted to testify in court, so a CFI is sometimes the best opportunity for a court to see how the child is handling a situation. A CFI will provide an unbiased third-party report on the home life of the child and will make a recommendation to the court about parenting time.

While a CFI does cost money, Colorado places a cap on how much they can charge at $2,700. The added cost may be a turn-off for some, but an effective CFI can provide insight to a court that can make or break your case. They will spend time talking to both parties as well as the child in making their recommendation and CFI’s are experienced family law professionals. Courts in Colorado give great weight to investigations conducted by CFI’s, meaning that their reports are important to determining child custody cases.

Talk to the Other Party

While it isn’t always possible, sometimes talking to the other party can be the easiest and most effective way of working out child custody issues. By talking it out, you can come to agreements with the other side as to how much custody time is acceptable for each side. Courts welcome agreements made by the parties, as it saves time and money, but it also encourages a healthy relationship between the parents. Remember, the court cares about what is in the best interest of the child, and it is almost always in a child’s best interest to have as little conflict as possible. Agreements reached between two parties are known as stipulations and can be formalized with the court as if you had gone through the full legal process. Your stipulations can become final orders, which will make them legally enforceable if one party attempts to break the agreement.

Child custody cases, while often messy, are so important to determine the wellbeing of your child’s future. While courts in Colorado do have guidelines to follow, it is often the case that child custody cases are very fact-specific, and the facts of each case will greatly influence parenting time decisions. It is also worth noting that not every jurisdiction in Colorado will handle a child custody case exactly the same way; a court in Jefferson County will handle the case differently than a court in El Paso County would.

The law provides a framework for your case and serves as guidelines for a court to follow. However, since each child custody case can be very complicated, having an attorney with experience in dealing with the court can help make the difference in your battle for child custody. Please reach out to our firm if you believe you need assistance in your child custody case.

Our Attorneys Are Ready To Listen

Our experienced family law attorneys in Denver have the knowledge, resources, and dedication to prepare your case and protect your interests to find the best possible outcome.

Modern Family Law

Modern Family Law’s team of experienced family law attorneys takes a compassionate approach to the practice of family law. Using innovative technology to create an effective and efficient process for our clientele, our attorneys approach each case as a collective effort to find the best long-term solutions for each family. Our attorneys currently practice in Colorado, California, and Texas. Click the following link to view all of our family law locations. For more information please give us a call or fill out a short form online to sign up for a free consultation today! Let us make a positive difference in your life.

By Justin Vanderveer, Esq.

Posted January 12, 2022


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