Fort Collins Child Custody Attorney

One of the most difficult things to consider when a couple with children divorce is how the needs of the children will be best met following the breakup of the family. What was once termed “child custody” is now referred to as “parental responsibilities” under Colorado law, which is really a more accurate description of what needs to be determined. The dissolution of a marriage is not a dissolution of either parent’s responsibilities toward their children. The question is, when parents are living separately, how are those responsibilities divided and what rights does each parent have to make decisions affecting their children and to spend time with them?

In an ideal world, parents should be able to put their differences behind them and work out a plan to share rights and responsibilities as well as time with the kids. Emotions often run high and it is sometimes difficult for divorcing parents to focus on a solution that offers the least disruption, stress, and unhappiness in the children’s lives.

When you and your soon-to-be-ex spouse just can’t seem to come together, a compassionate and experienced divorce lawyer who can develop strategies with you to place you in the best position to reach your goals, who can focus on negotiating a compromise that meets your needs and those of your kids, may have long lasting benefits to you, your children, and your case.

The Colorado family court will have the final word on how parental responsibilities will be shared. If you and your spouse can agree, the court will usually go along with your decision. It is nearly always preferable for the parents to work these things out on their own, rather than having them determined by a judge who doesn’t know your children or your family. Parental rights and responsibilities that must be settled will include:

  • Who makes or participates in major life decisions—such as schooling, religion, and health-related decisions.
  • Where the children will live and what part of their time will be spent with each parent.
  • The decisions affecting child custody must be those deemed by the court to be in the children’s best interest.

Child Custody Options

There are a number of different ways that parenting time can be divided:

  • Primary parenting time parent subject to a parenting time schedule for the other parent: this is where both parents may share decision making responsibilities for the children but one parent will have the majority of the parenting time subject to the parenting schedule of the other parent.
  • Equal access schedule: In some situations, parents may decide that their best option is to share decision making responsibilities for the children and to have an equal access schedule regarding parenting time with the children. This may work out well in relatively amicable divorces where the parents are able to cooperate and make joint decisions that work for the children.In some families, this what is best as it gives the children an equal opportunity to be with both parents, possibly lessening their feelings of loss on one parent. However, this arrangement may not serve the best interests of the children in every family.
  • Split parenting schedule: In a minority of cases, the children may be best served if there is one schedule for one child and a separate schedule for another child. This is rare, but possible depending on the circumstances.

Factors Considered by the Court in Determining Parenting Time and Decision Making

In years past, mothers had an edge over dads in gaining primary custody of children, but Colorado law has now eliminated this presumption. Instead, the court will consider a variety of factors, including:

  • The wishes of the parents
  • The physical and mental health of each parent
  • The wishes of the children
  • Which parent has been the primary caretaker of the children
  • The emotional bonds between the children and each parent
  • The connections the children have with extended family and other support groups
  • The suitability of the home and neighborhood each parent would provide, including proximity to school and activities.
  • Which parent is more involved in the children’s activities
  • Whether either parent has a history of domestic abuse
  • Whether either parent has issues with substance abuse
  • Religious and/or cultural considerations
  • The amount of time each parent will have available to spend with the children
  • The parenting skills of each parent

Getting the Legal Help You Need to Determine a Custody Arrangement that Will Work

Deciding on fair and reasonable custody arrangements that are in the best interests of the children may be the most stressful aspect of you divorce. Therefore, it is important that you have a lawyer who is not only fully experienced in family law and understands how judges make these decisions, but also who understands how emotionally wrenching custody matters can be for all concerned. In Northern Colorado, family law attorney Stephen Vertucci can guide you through the decision-making process, help you understand the pros and cons of various custody arrangements, help you make an enforceable child support plan, develop strategies to place you in the best position to meet your goals, and negotiate an agreement that best suits your needs and desires and those of every member of your family.

If divorce has become a likelihood and children are involved, do not wait until this important decision is entirely in a judge’s hands. Call the Law Office of Stephen Vertucci at 970.900.1800 today and arrange for a consultation.