Child Custody Considerations
In the state of Colorado, several factors may be considered when determining child custody and visitation, but there are a couple of overriding factors you should be aware of. First and foremost, Colorado law states that custody “may be awarded to either parent based on the best interest of the child, and shall consider all relevant factors.” If you think it is in the best interest of children to spend the majority of their time in your home, you need to prove your case to the court’s satisfaction.
Colorado courts are blind, which means they do not favor one parent over another simply because of gender, race, religion, or other differences. For example, mothers will not get automatic preference over fathers.
In addition, the courts lean toward shared custody as a default. This is a little different from joint legal custody, insomuch as parents share equal parenting time, financial responsibilities for children, and decision-making responsibilities. If this is not in the best interests of children for some reason, you need to present a compelling argument about why the other parent is unfit.
Submitting a Parenting Plan
In a shared custody situation, parents have the opportunity to submit a parenting plan to the court that outlines their preferred schedule for shared custody, including physical custody and visitation. Older children may be allowed some input as to their preferences. In most cases, the parent that earns more will pay the other parent to cover expenses related to children, although this is not an official child support payment.
If the court feels the parenting plan is in the best interests of children, it will be approved. If the court rejects the plan or parents fail to provide one, the court will create a plan. It’s important to understand that joint custody and shared custody are different. If parents are unable to agree on shared custody arrangements, they may have no choice but to accept a stricter, joint custody agreement, often with one parent taking on greater parenting time and financial responsibility.
There will be cases where a custodial parent is granted significantly more parenting time than the non-custodial parent, and the court will create a visitation schedule. Often, this includes parenting time for the non-custodial parent that falls during weekends and holidays, just for example, although overnight may be limited. If a history of abuse or neglect is a factor, the best interests of the children will take precedence.