Custody in the state of Colorado is governed by CRS 14-10-124, which is the statute regarding the best interests of the child. Custody comes into play when going through a divorce case or if two people have never been married but have a child together. The standard is the same, the Court has to examine the child’s best interests which involves several factors.
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- The first factor is the wishes of the parents – what do they want and why?
- Next is the wishes of the child. This only comes into play if the children are mature enough to express their own feelings, and often a parenting expert is needed to help determine this.
- The third factor is the relationship the child has with others in the community that might be affected by the parenting time decision.
- The fourth is the adjustment to home, school, or community the child has – if a child is well adjusted in one environment but a custody arrangement will change that, the court has to examine the impact that decision will have on the child.
- The fifth factor is any mental or physical health issue of any individual involved. This can be a catch 22 – oftentimes people claim that the other person has a mental health issue because they feel it gives them an edge in parenting time, but then try to argue that same person should be fully employed so they don’t have to pay as much child support. This doesn’t really make sense, and needs to be looked at carefully.
- The sixth factor is the ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party. The most damaging thing a parent can do to a child during a custody case is to speak negatively about the other parent to the child or in the presence of the child. That cannot happen. Co-parenting is very important.
- The seventh factor is whether the past pattern of involvement of the parents with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support. If one parent has always been the worker and the other has always been involved with school, doctor’s appointments, play dates, etc., the Court isn’t going to expect that to change overnight. The pattern leading up to court will be examined.
- The eighth factor is the physical proximity of the parties. If one parent lives in Fountain and another lives in Monument, a 50/50 parenting time schedule is going to be much harder to maintain than if both parents live on the west side of Colorado Springs or if one parent lives in Falcon and the other lives in Peyton.
- Finally, the Court looks at the ability of each party to place the needs of the children ahead of his/her own. This most often comes up when one party or the other is refusing to support the children, or allowing his/her anger at the other party to negatively impact the children. You have to love your child more than you dislike your ex!
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