Colorado Family Law Firm

Legal Representation When Facing Child Custody Issues in Denver

Defining Child Custody, Visitation & Parental Responsibility in Colorado

The difference between child custody and child visitation versus parental responsibility is largely one of word choice. In Colorado, the terms child custody and child visitation have been replaced by the terms “parental responsibility” and “parenting time.” "Parental responsibility” includes deciding a child’s primary residence (previously child custody), sharing parenting time (visitation), and decision-making authority (an offshoot of child custody).

A biological parent is deemed to have a fundamental liberty in the interest of the care and custody of their own children. This means that Colorado law acknowledges that you have a right to parent your child. However, this does not mean the courts cannot make orders that affect your parental rights or set restrictions on your ability to parent your child. If the court is going to make any restrictions, it has to consider many different factors.

If you and your spouse are currently at odds regarding child custody and parenting time, contact Schmidt Law Group, P.C. to consult with our Denver child custody lawyer today.

Decision-Making Authority (Custody)

Decision-making authority is the ability to make certain legal decisions for your children who live in Colorado or Denver. Decision-making authority generally refers to the ability of one or both parents to make major life decisions for the child.

This includes decisions regarding the following:

  • Religious affiliations
  • Educational decisions
  • Extra-curricular activities
  • Medical and dental decision-making

Your opinion as to you and your co-parent’s ability to make decisions jointly regarding your children is a factor for the judge to consider in determining if decision making should be joint or separate. It is recommended that you talk with your Denver divorce attorney on any issues or concerns that you have with joint decision-making.

Sole vs. Joint Decision-Making

Joint decision-making means both parents must make decisions on behalf of the children together. If a decision cannot be reached, the matter may, by agreement be referred to a decision maker and/or mediation. The difference between sole and joint decision-making is important to understand if you are co-parenting in Denver or Colorado. There is a presumption in the law that both parents are fit to be decision-makers for their own children. In simple terms without lawyer speak, this means that it is assumed that joint decision-making is best for the child.

A parent may be awarded sole decision-making authority, meaning that one parent has the ability to decide on issues such as where the child goes to school, lives, certain extra-curricular activities, and medical decisions without input from the other parent. Divorce attorneys know that each parent has a right to bring their child up in whatever religion he or she chooses, regardless of decision making. The court is not able to prevent a parent from taking his/her child to religious services or activities.

Partial decision-making authority, on the other hand, allows for a split of decision-making authority for the children based on the specific issues. For example, one parent is the only decision-maker for education issues and the other parent is the only decision-maker for extra-curricular activities.

The right to decide legal issues for your children can either be made by the court or agreed upon by the parties. Lawyers will recommend agreements with the other side, where possible. There is always a risk that you will not get what you want if you allow a judge to make the decision for you. As most divorce attorneys in Denver have experienced, going to court on decision-making authority can be costly and have unsatisfactory results. It should be done only in cases where joint decision-making is not in the best interest of the child.

We recommend reviewing any agreement that your spouse or the other parent presents to you with an attorney to make sure that you understand what rights you have or not have prior to signing the document. Once you make an agreement as to parental responsibly, you are giving up that right unless the court changes it, which means in the process of changing the document, you would not legally be allowed to make certain decisions for your children.

In the Colorado Revised Statute §14-10-124 (1.5) (b), this is the statue that a judge must follow when considering an allocation of decision-making authority:

  • Credible evidence of the ability (or inability) of the parties to cooperate and to make decisions jointly.
  • Whether awarding joint decision-making responsibility on any issue promotes continuing contact between the child and both parents.

Parenting Time (Visitation)

Parenting time relates to the amount of time the children spend with each parent. The court must consider the best interest of the children and all relevant factors in deciding on an allocation of parenting time. This allocation of time by a judge in Denver or Colorado does not require an equal or even split.

Colorado Revised Statute §14-10-124 (1.5) (a) is the statute that a judge should consider when determining parenting time for each parent.

The time split requested by each parent is considered, as well as the following:

  • The parents’ requests or wishes
  • The child’s wishes, especially if the child is older
  • The child’s relationship and interaction with each parent, brothers/sisters, and other family members that affect the interest of the child such as a grandparent or an aunt, cousin, and others.
  • How the child fits in his/her home, school, and community
  • The physical and mental health of all parties involved
  • If each parent is able to encourage not just contact but as well as love and affection between the child and the other parent
  • If a parent’s past involvement with the child reflects a system of values, mutual support, and time commitment
  • The physical proximity or distance of the parents to each other
  • The parent’s ability to place their child’s need above their own

Restriction of Parenting Time

Restriction of all parenting time is a drastic step for a judge to take. The court must first hold a hearing and find evidence that further parenting time would cause harm or danger to the child’s physical health or the child’s emotional development. This is an extremely high standard and should be thoroughly discussed with your child custody lawyer if you feel your child is endangered when in the parents’ care or an allegation is made against you.

In making the decision on both decision-making authority and parenting time, the court or any party may request the appointment of either a Child and Family Investigator or Parenting Responsibility Evaluator. The parties usually split the cost of either a CFI or PRE either evenly or in proportion to income.

Co-Parenting After Separation or Divorce

Co-parenting means that you and the other parent are working together to raise your children, although you are living separately. When you are entering into a co-parenting relationship, there are many issues that may come up along the way including some that you may be able to handle on your own and some that may require a divorce attorney. As the child grows and enters into different phases in his or her life, having a solid agreement on co-parenting can help the child adjust and gives both parents peace of mind in raising their children. However, no agreement is foolproof and you may need to seek modifications of agreements and circumstances if situations change. This is where you may need to rely on the advice of our experienced Denver family law attorney.

Ready for a Consultation? Call Our Firm Now!

We hope that the above has provided you information on child custody and child visitation issues. We invite you to ask a question or call for a consultation regarding a child custody or visitation issue.

Call (303) 225-1016 or email us to reach our Denver child custody lawyers for more personalized information to your legal question.

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