Your children are the most important people in your world. Who will care for them—and make crucial life decisions for them—after your divorce?
In general, child custody refers to who has responsibility for the upbringing of children. However, Colorado law recognizes that parenting is more than just physical care. So instead of “custody,” state law focuses on “parental responsibilities,” which refers to both parental decision making and parents’ time spent with the children.
The Best Interests of the Child
Colorado law does not favor one parent over the other. Instead, the court makes decisions relating to parental responsibilities based on “the best interests of the child.” To determine that, courts may look at all relevant factors and evidence–commonly including information about both parents, other family members, and, depending on the child’s age, the child’s wishes may play an important role. Parental conduct is an essential concern. The courts will look carefully at each parent’s behavior during the marriage, especially if there have been allegations of substance or alcohol abuse, child or spousal abuse, or other violence in the home.
Colorado requires all divorcing parents to attend a mandatory parenting class, which must be completed before a divorce will be granted. The state court website maintains a list of providers for these classes with information about locations and costs.
In Colorado, you must have a court-approved “parenting plan” that allocates parental responsibilities. Ideally, the parents submit a joint plan. Upon court approval, the plan is legally binding. If, however, they cannot agree, they each can submit a proposal for how the parenting plan should look; and then the Court will have to make the final decision
While it is up to the parents to determine what to include, the court encourages parents to address issues such as:
- Educational decisions;
- Religious upbringing and participation;
- Days and weeks child will live with which parent (including transportation to and from these locations);
- Decisions relating to extracurricular participation;
- Access to children during holidays, vacations, telephonically; and
- Financial issues such as child support, medical and health insurance, sharing of extracurricular activities and how the tax deductions are allocated between the parents.
Post-divorce, parenting becomes a combination of love and legal obligations. If you have any questions about what this all means and how to best protect your children, consider consulting with a seasoned Boulder, CO lawyer at Stahly LLC.