When a Colorado couple decides to end their marriage or relationship, deciding the fate of their minor children can be a torturous, painful discussion. Perhaps the first thing to understand is that the Colorado legislature changed the name of the discussion from “child custody” to “parental responsibilities.” Parental responsibility is intended to embrace both time spent with the child and time spent making and carrying out decisions concerning the child’s welfare.
Parenting time refers to the division of time with the child between the two parents after the separation and divorce become final. Courts will usually designate one parent as the “primary care parent”; this parent becomes the parent with whom the child spends the majority of his or her time. If the parents can agree how to divide parenting time, the court will ordinarily accept their wishes. If the parties cannot come to an agreement, a court trial may be necessary.
In the event that parents do not agree on the allocation of parenting tine, the court will conduct a hearing to gather evidence and will rely on a number of factors to resolve the issue. The court will endeavor to determine which parent is better able to provide for the best interests of the child. In doing so, the judge considers a number of factors, including:
- The child’s wishes if the child is old enough to express a mature decision
- Each parent’s wishes
- The child’s relationship with each parent, grandparents and other influential people
- The child’s ability to adjust to a new home or school and community
- The mental and physical health of all concerned parties.
The court may also consider any other evidence that it deems relevant to deciding what outcome will best serve the best interests of the child. Any parent who feels that they are on the verge of a divorce may wish to consult an experienced divorce attorney for advice on child custody and other issues.