Parental responsibilities, sometimes called child custody, is an important issue for divorcing parents. If you just started the divorce process, some of your first concerns may have been over where your child will live, how frequently you will see your child and who will be able to make decisions about your child’s upbringing. While you and your spouse can work together on a parenting plan that addresses these concerns, sometimes collaboration does not work and a court must make these decisions.
When a Colorado court makes decisions regarding parental responsibilities, the most important consideration is the child's best interests. Typically, courts believe it is in the child’s best interest to have parents share time with the child and share decision-making responsibilities regarding the child. However, there is no strict definition of what is in a child’s best interest because each child and each situation is unique. Courts can consider any relevant factor when determining parental responsibilities.
How are a child’s best interests determined?
When determining how to allocate parenting time, courts prioritize the child’s safety and the child’s physical, mental and emotional needs. However, some other relevant factors that courts typically consider, include the:
- Wishes of each parent
- Wishes of a mature child
- Child’s interaction with family members
- Child’s adjustment to home, school or the community
- Mental and physical health of the parents and the child
- Likelihood each parent will encourage the child to maintain a healthy relationship with the other parent
- Involvement each parent has had in the child’s life
- Distance the parents live from each other
When determining how to allocate decision-making responsibilities, the court can consider several additional factors to determine if the parents can share decision-making abilities. The court may look for evidence that the parents can cooperate to make decisions about the child. It may also consider past involvement with the child that may indicate the parents can make decisions together that foster a positive relationship with the child. It may also consider if shared decision-making responsibilities for certain topics will promote more frequent contact between the child and either parent.
A child’s best interests should be at the heart of any decision regarding parental responsibilities. However, determining a child’s best interests often means considering many facets of a unique situation. With an understanding of the factors courts consider, you will be better able to advocate for a parenting plan that accommodates your child’s needs.