Child Custody

Can a Child Refuse Visitation?

Posted in Child Custody on December 31, 2022

If the courts order visitation as part of a child custody agreement in a divorce case in Colorado, this gives the parent the legal right to visit with his or her child. As an order from the court, visitation is legally enforceable. However, things can get complicated if the child refuses visitation or wants a different arrangement.

Does a Child Have a Say in a Custody Agreement?

Yes and no. Whether a child’s wishes are taken into account during a custody case depends on the circumstances. There is no specific age at which a child is old enough to contribute to custody decisions in Colorado. A judge will decide on a case-by-case basis according to the child’s age and maturity. If the child’s wishes are taken into account, this could alter the custody and visitation schedule. Once the parenting time schedule has been finalized, all parties must comply with its requirements.

What if a Child or Teen Refuses Visitation?

A divorce can be hard on the children involved. As a child gets older, he or she may not want to take time away from his or her friends or life to visit with the noncustodial parent. However, the courts expect the custodial parent to encourage visitation. If a child is reluctant to visit the other parent, the custodial parent is required to encourage the visits to comply with the custody order. 

Otherwise, the noncustodial parent could argue that the other parent isn’t letting the child visit. In extreme cases, this could even lead to parental abduction allegations. The custodial parent needs proof that he or she has taken steps to comply with the court order and ensure child visitation. If the child is refusing visitation, however, there is only so much a parent can do. 

A judge will not force a child to visit with a parent. If the child is at least 14 years old, the Colorado courts may take the child’s wishes into account and alter the parenting plan. This is more likely to occur with an older child, such as one who is 16 or 17. At age 18, the child is an adult and no longer has to comply with a custody arrangement. At younger ages, however, the custodial parent should do his or her best to encourage visitation.

What to Do if Visitation Presents a Danger to Your Child

If you find yourself in a situation where your child is refusing visitation or throwing a tantrum when it’s time to visit your ex-spouse, ask why. Get to the bottom of what’s bothering your child and see if it’s something you can fix. If your child tells you that something bad happens when he or she visits with the other parent, this could be grounds to have your custody arrangement changed. 

According to Colorado Revised Statutes 14-10-129, if there is evidence that a child’s emotional or physical development could be harmed by visiting with the noncustodial parent, the custodial parent can petition to have the custody agreement modified. If there is evidence of domestic violence, child abuse, neglect or substance abuse, for example, the courts will modify the custody arrangement and may take away the parent’s visitation rights. 

The courts will carefully investigate a custody situation before accepting a modification request. A judge will analyze multiple factors, such as the child’s wishes (if old enough), parental fitness, financial capabilities and each parent’s relationship with the child. If the courts agree that it would not be in the child’s best interest to continue visiting the noncustodial parent, a new order may be issued. However, the courts typically will not alter a custody agreement based on the wishes of the child alone.

Contact a Child Custody Attorney

Child custody and visitation schedules are a complicated part of any divorce or legal separation case. If your child is refusing to visit with your ex-spouse, solutions are available. Contact a child custody attorney in Fort Collins for advice and legal services to help your family resolve the issue.

Do Stepparents Have Any Rights in a Custody Battle?

Posted in Child Custody on December 30, 2022

A child custody issue in Colorado typically involves the child’s two biological or legal parents. A judge will assign parenting time (physical custody) and legal custody to either or both parents based on the best interests of the child. If a blended family has a stepparent, however, this could affect a custody decision. There are certain scenarios where a stepparent parent has the right to claim custody of a child.

What Is the Stepparent’s Relationship With the Child?

Whether a stepparent will have custodial rights during a divorce case in Colorado depends on his or her relationship with the child. If the stepparent has legally adopted the stepchild, the stepparent is viewed as the child’s legal parent. This will give the stepparent all of the same rights as the child’s biological parent. In this scenario, both parents would have equal rights to child custody and visitation. The stepparent could share custody of the stepchild with the biological parent after the divorce or separation.

If the stepparent did not legally adopt the child, he or she will have fewer custodial rights. The stepparent will not be viewed as the legal parent of the stepchild. Under normal circumstances, a judge would not award custody to the stepparent over the child’s biological or legal parent in this situation. However, child custody decisions are always made according to the best interests of the child in Colorado.

A Stepparent’s Rights in Colorado

If the courts decide on a joint custody arrangement between a stepparent who has not adopted the child and a biological or legal parent, the stepparent will have fewer rights. While the stepparent can receive legal rights, as a general rule, the stepparent will not have the right to determine medical care for the stepchild. This can be changed, however, if the child’s biological parents sign a consent form. Stepparents do have the right to access school records and attend school functions. Finally, stepparents may be asked to participate in a child’s disciplinary arrangements. 

How to Adopt Your Stepchild

The best way to ensure that you have legal rights as a stepparent in a custody battle in Colorado is to legally adopt your stepchild. This will guarantee that you are viewed as the child’s legal parent and will be given the same rights as his or her biological parent in a divorce case. There are two ways to legally adopt a stepchild in Colorado:

  • If the child’s other biological parent is no longer alive, the living parent can give his or her written consent for the stepparent to adopt the child.
  • If the child’s other biological parent is still alive, the stepparent may only adopt the child if the other parent voluntarily surrenders his or her parental rights in writing.

If adoption is not an option, the other way for a stepparent to enhance his or her rights during a custody battle is to get a signed consent form from one or both biological parents. If the parent(s) of the child signs a form giving the stepparent legal rights, he or she may be given custody or visitation after a divorce.

Petitioning the Courts for Visitation Rights as a Stepparent

If you are a stepparent that has not legally adopted your stepchild, you can still petition the courts for custody or visitation rights during a divorce case in Colorado. Visitation is more likely than custody if you are not the child’s legal parent. Visitation gives you the right to visit with the stepchild after a divorce or legal separation. Grandparents can also seek visitation rights in Colorado. 

The courts may grant a stepparent’s visitation request if they believe it is in the child’s best interest to remain in contact with the stepparent after the split. The desires of the child may also be taken into account if the child is at least 14 years of age. In a case where the child’s biological or legal parent passes away, a stepparent can also petition for custody of the child. For more information about a stepparent’s rights in a custody battle in Colorado, contact a child custody attorney.

What Is an Interstate Custody Agreement?

Posted in Child Custody on December 30, 2022

Child custody is one of the most complicated and contested parts of the average divorce case. When divorced parents live in two different states, child custody becomes even more confusing. The family will need what is known as an interstate custody agreement to tackle the challenges of this unique situation.

When Can a Parent Move Out of State?

After a divorce involving children, the parents typically do not have the freedom to move wherever they want. They must go through the proper channels before moving, especially moving out of state or to a different country. This involves getting the other parent’s permission to make the move or obtaining a signature from a judge. If two parents do live in different states, they will need an interstate child custody agreement to plan parenting time.

What Is the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act?

The Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) was created to make it easier for parents to navigate a joint custody arrangement from different states. It is a federal law that enforces certain rules and guidelines for interstate custody arrangements. Here are the basics of how the UCCJEA works:

  • It determines which state has original jurisdiction in a child custody dispute. Then, it requires all state courts to enforce a valid child custody order that was made by the original court.
  • It identifies the original custody action as beginning in the child’s “home state,” or the state where the child has lived for at least six months prior to the custody case being filed.
  • It gives the originating state jurisdiction to modify a child custody or visitation order, as long as the child or one of the parents still lives in that state.
  • If neither the child nor parents live in the originating state, jurisdiction over the child custody case will follow the child to his or her new home state.
  • Emergency jurisdiction can be granted to the state where the child is, if the courts find that this is needed.
  • Jurisdiction can also be changed if one parent is part of a domestic violence situation in the originating state, if the two states are very far apart, or if one or both parties do not have the financial means to travel.

The UCCJEA can make it easier to navigate a child custody agreement that involves multiple states by determining which state has jurisdiction over the custody order and where custody disputes must be resolved. It also requires parents to give adequate notice to all other involved parties regarding a custody matter.

How Does an Interstate Custody Agreement Work?

Every case is unique. If two parents live in different states after a divorce or legal separation, the custody arrangement used will depend on what is in the best interests of the child involved. The arrangement will depend on factors such as the distance between both households, how well the parents communicate with each other, and the child’s connections to his or her community and school in his or her home state.

Interstate custody agreements have to take into account the mechanics of a child traveling to a different state – for example, will someone travel with the child? Who is responsible for paying for travel costs? If a joint custody agreement is chosen, the child typically will not go back and forth within the same week to two different states. Instead, the child may spend summers with one parent and the rest of the year with the other parent, for example. Video calls may also be implemented. 

If a custody dispute arises, the parents will rely on the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act to determine which state has jurisdiction over the order. Then, the parents will file papers in this state to resolve the custody dispute. If you and your ex-spouse are co-parenting across state lines, contact a child custody attorney to help you navigate the complexities of your interstate custody agreement.

How to Gain Sole Custody in Colorado

Posted in Child Custody on September 30, 2022

Child custody is often the most important and contested part of a divorce case involving children in Colorado. No parent wants to sacrifice any amount of time with their child. Unfortunately, this is the reality of getting divorced. If you believe that it is in your child’s best interest to live with you full time, you can file for sole custody in Colorado. Obtaining sole custody, however, is challenging.

How Is Child Custody Determined in Colorado?

It is important to know that the courts view sole custody as a last resort. They are not in the habit of awarding full custody to one parent and taking away the other parent’s custodial rights entirely. Instead, the courts believe that it is generally in a child’s best interests to remain in frequent and meaningful contact with both parents after a divorce. For this reason, a shared or joint custody arrangement is most common in Colorado. However, the courts will award sole custody in situations where they believe that being in the care of one parent would potentially harm the child physically, mentally or emotionally.

What Can You Do to Increase Your Chances of Getting Sole Custody?

If you desire sole custody of your child(ren) in a divorce case in Colorado, there are steps that you can take to improve the likelihood of achieving this outcome. You have an uphill battle ahead of you, however, and may require assistance from a qualified child custody lawyer in Fort Collins. An attorney can help you take all of the steps necessary to strengthen your child custody case and improve your odds of having full custody.

Prove That Your Ex-Spouse Is an Unfit Parent

In Colorado, one parent’s custodial rights may be terminated if he or she is declared “unfit.” This means that the individual has been ruled unable to properly provide for the child’s needs and well-being. The definition of what makes a parent unfit changes from state to state. In Colorado, proving that your ex-spouse is unfit is difficult. It comes with a highly involved legal process. First, you or your lawyer will need to provide evidence supporting your argument as to why your ex is an unfit parent, such as:

You will need evidence and documentation to support your argument, such as police reports, medical records or witnesses. You may also need to request a psychological evaluation of your ex-spouse. Note, however, that requesting this evaluation typically means that you will need to undergo one, as well. If the courts conclude that your ex-spouse is an unfit parent, his or her parental rights may be taken away.

Show That Sole Custody Is in Your Child’s Best Interests 

The next step is establishing that sole custody would be in your child’s best interests after your divorce. As stated above, the courts typically hold that continuing contact with both parents is what is best for a child. It is up to you or your lawyer to show that sole custody with you is in fact what is best for your child’s physical and psychological well-being. This argument may be based on reasons connected to your ex being an unfit parent, but you will also need to prove that you are a fit parent; for instance, that you have character witnesses and a successful track record of being your child’s primary caregiver.

Hire an Experienced Attorney for Child Custody Assistance

You will need to be proactive if sole custody is a goal that you want to achieve in your divorce case. Hire an experienced divorce lawyer in Fort Collins from the very beginning to start building your custody case. A lawyer will be prepared to take your custody case to trial to fight for what is best for your child, if necessary. 

Your lawyer will know all of the techniques used to achieve sole custody. In addition, your lawyer can give you an honest evaluation of whether sole custody is possible in your case. For more information, contact The Law Office of Stephen Vertucci, LLC to request a consultation with one of our child custody lawyers.

Is a Nesting Agreement Right for You?

Posted in Child Custody on June 7, 2022

Child custody is often the largest point of contention in a Colorado divorce case. What most parents can agree on, however, is that they want what’s best for their children. To some families, this means keeping the children in the family home 100 percent of the time rather than making them alternate residences when the parents share custody. This custody arrangement is known as bird nesting, bird-nest parenting or simply nesting.

What Is a Nesting Agreement in Divorce?

A nesting agreement in a divorce or legal separation case is a type of shared custody plan where the focus is on keeping the children in the home they are used to living in full-time. Rather than a traditional joint custody plan, where the children split their time between the two separate residences of each parent, a nesting agreement rotates the parents out of the family home according to an agreed-upon schedule and lets the children stay there full time.

Bird-nest parenting typically looks like this: Parent A lives in the family home with the children while Parent B lives in a rented space. When it’s time to switch custody – when it’s Parent B’s parenting time with the kids – Parent A and Parent B switch places. Parent A will stay in their rented space while Parent B stays in the marital home with the children until it’s Parent A’s parenting time. This pattern will continue for the duration of the parenting plan, with the parents rotating in and out of the home for their parenting time and the children never leaving.

Does Nesting Work Long Term?

A nesting agreement can work long term if both parents are on the same page and willing to work together. Like more traditional child custody arrangements, bird-nest parenting still requires an established parenting plan. Nesting is not a substitute for a time-sharing arrangement in a divorce case.

You and your spouse will need to sit down together and work out exactly what your schedule will look like – including who will be in the marital home with the children for weekends, weekdays, holidays, birthdays, school vacations, special occasions, etc. Nesting has a better chance of working long term if a couple is amicable and able to communicate and work together for the sake of their children.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Nesting Agreement?

If you and your spouse are curious whether a nesting agreement is right for your family, consider the various pros and cons that can come with this arrangement:

Pros:

  • The changes that children have to adapt to during a divorce are kept to a minimum.
  • Children don’t have to spend any time away from their friends, community or nearby family members.
  • Children can continue attending the same daycare, school or church all week long.
  • Neither parent has to give up living in the marital home.
  • You can save money by renting a small studio for the nonmarital property.
  • You don’t have to decide right away whether you want to sell or keep the family home.

Cons:

  • You are unable to sell the marital home, which can prevent a clean break.
  • Not selling the marital home can also have negative financial consequences.
  • It can be difficult to work out matters such as who will pay for repairs to the marital home.
  • Organizing taxes, such as who gets to deduct the mortgage interest, can be difficult.
  • Calculating child support can be more difficult since both parents are still technically living together.
  • The couple must be able to communicate and work together to share a living space.
  • This arrangement can get tricky if one or both parents start to date other people.

You have a lot to think about as a parent considering a nesting agreement after divorce or legal separation. Talk this option over with a Fort Collins child custody lawyer for further information and personalized advice for your family’s unique situation.

Emancipation of Minors in Colorado: Does It Affect Child Support Obligations?

Posted in Child Custody on November 29, 2021

Fort Collins child custody lawyer

Child support is a major part of many divorce and legal separation cases in Colorado. For the most part, a child support order will last until a child turns 19 – the age of majority in Colorado. Certain circumstances may change the age at which a child support obligation ends, however, either by cutting it short early or extending it past the age of 19. Emancipation is something that could shorten the required payment, depending on the case.

What Is Emancipation?

Emancipation in Colorado means that the rights and responsibilities that exist between a parent and child are terminated. To become emancipated in Colorado, a minor must fulfill certain requirements. For child support purposes, according to Colorado Revised Statutes Section 14-10-115(13), emancipation automatically occurs without either party filing a motion when the last child of the marriage turns 19 years old. This means most child support obligations end at age 19.

However, a child could also become emancipated early, which could terminate the child support agreement before the child turns 19. For example, if a minor gets married or joins the armed forces, he or she is legally considered emancipated in Colorado. It may also be possible for the minor to emancipate himself or herself through a court procedure, if the minor can prove that he or she lives alone, can self-support financially, and manage his or her own affairs. Once a child becomes emancipated, the paying parent generally will no longer have to pay child support.

What Happens to Your Child Support Agreement if a Minor Emancipates Early?

If your child meets any of the conditions that make him or her legally considered emancipated before turning 19 in Colorado, this will end your child support obligation early. An emancipated minor is no longer considered dependent on the custodial parent, as he or she can support himself or herself financially. Therefore, the paying parent will no longer be responsible for paying child support for the emancipated child.

You do not need to take any legal steps to stop paying child support for an emancipated child in Colorado. After marriage, military enlistment or an emancipation procedure, your child will legally be considered emancipated. This will automatically relieve you of your support obligation for that child without you needing to file a motion to terminate the support with the courts. As the payer, however, you may still owe child support for other minors who are not emancipated that you share with your ex-spouse. Your order will only end after the last child becomes emancipated.

Can a Child Support Obligation Last Beyond Emancipation?

In some scenarios, a child support order can extend past the child turning 19. Even though the child will technically be considered emancipated at this age, a parent may still have to continue paying child support if there are extenuating circumstances that require the custodial parent to continue paying for child-related care, such as a disability, medical condition or a child who still goes to school. If any of the following are true, a child support obligation in Colorado may last beyond the age of 19:

  • Both parties agree to continue paying child support longer. 
  • The child is mentally or physically disabled.
  • The child is still in high school or an equivalent program.

If you are not sure how long your child support order will last based on a unique circumstance, such as early emancipation, you may need assistance from a child support lawyer in Fort Collins. The topic of emancipation can be complicated, especially if your child is attempting to become emancipated early with a court order. An attorney can help you understand your situation and how long your child support obligation will last. If you wish to modify a child support agreement based on a change in your circumstances, a lawyer can also help you with this legal matter.

How Mental Health Issues Can Affect Your Colorado Custody Case

Posted in Child Custody on October 29, 2021

fort collins child custody

Many people who get involved in divorce and child custody cases believe that if they can prove the other parent has a mental health issue, the courts will automatically rule in their favor. However, this is not the case. The mental health and stability of all individuals involved is only one factor used to determine parental responsibility in Colorado. Working with a custody attorney can help you protect your rights, your child and your family in this situation.

How the Family Courts Determine Mental Fitness

The mental health of both parents is something that will be carefully taken into consideration during a custody case in Colorado. Mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, ADHD and substance abuse may affect an individual’s parenting ability. This is what the courts set out to determine when a custody case involves a parent with a history of mental illness. The courts may use many tools to determine a parent’s mental and psychological fitness to care for a child, including:

  • Any patterns of domestic violence, child neglect or abuse. If a parent’s mental health issue has a history of interfering with his or her ability to parent a child, any past incidents will be carefully analyzed and factored into the custody decision.
  • Psychiatric examination. A judge will order a psychiatric examination of one or both parents if this is requested by either party. Psychological testing can help a judge understand the parent’s mental state or a diagnosed disorder, as well as how this issue may impact the parent’s ability to properly care for a child.
  • Medical information. According to HIPAA laws, many medical documents and records are protected information and cannot be used in court. However, testimony from relevant medical experts could be used to prove that a parent presents a danger to him or herself or others.
  • Substance abuse allegations. If a judge becomes aware of a substance abuse problem by either parent, this can negatively impact that parent’s chances of obtaining child custody. In this case, a judge may order a drug or alcohol screening test or require the parent to submit to testing before visitation with the child.

There are many different custody arrangements that a judge can assign in Colorado. If a judge determines that a mental health issue precludes a parent from primary custody, that parent could still obtain shared or joint custody or visitation rights. It is also possible to request a modification of a child custody agreement in the future if anything changes, such as a change in either parent’s mental state.

Other Elements of a Child Custody Case

The allocation of parental responsibilities in Colorado involves more than just one parent’s mental health issues. According to Colorado Revised Statutes Section 14-10-124, the main factor that a judge will look at when determining custody is the child’s best interests. This standard has a broad scope, meaning that a judge can analyze many different parts of a child’s life to determine the arrangement that will best protect his or her well-being. These factors include:

  • How emotionally connected the child is to either parent
  • The child’s ties to his or her home, community and nearby relatives
  • The physical and mental fitness of all individuals involved
  • Each parent’s history of allowing the child to have continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent
  • The ability of a parent to place the child’s needs over his or her own
  • The distance between the two households
  • What the child wants, in some cases

Colorado law specifically states that a disability alone is not a basis to deny or restrict parental responsibilities. This includes a mental disability or diagnosed mental health issue. Instead, the courts are required to analyze all factors that could play a role in a child’s physical health and safety, emotional development, and overall happiness. If you or your spouse has a mental health issue, contact an attorney for assistance with this delicate situation. With representation from an attorney, you can make the strongest case possible for your desired custody arrangement to protect your child.

Domestic Violence and Child Custody Cases in Colorado

Posted in Child Custody on October 29, 2021

Fort Collins domestic violence and child custody lawyer

Unfortunately, domestic violence is an issue that is involved in many divorce, legal separation and child custody cases throughout Colorado. Reports of domestic violence have increased since the COVID-19 outbreak. If you are facing a child custody battle that involves violence, abuse or assault by your spouse, there are steps that you can take to secure your safety and legal rights. Contact a child custody attorney in Fort Collins right away for more information.

Does Domestic Violence Automatically Exclude a Parent From Child Custody?

No. The courts will analyze many different factors when making a child custody decision (known as parental responsibility in Colorado). According to Colorado Revised Statutes Section 14-10-124, however, domestic violence is a specific factor that is assessed in a custody case. Part (1.5)(b)(V) states that if one party has been a perpetrator of domestic violence, it will not be in the best interests of the child to allocate joint decision-making responsibility if the other parent objects to this arrangement.

There is an exception noted, however, if the courts find that both parents can make shared legal decisions without physical confrontation and in a manner that does not endanger the victim or child. In other words, domestic violence will not automatically take physical or legal custody rights away from a parent in Colorado. However, it can increase the odds of a judge assigning custody to the other parent.

Proving Domestic Violence in a Custody Case

Importantly, the law also states that a domestic violence allegation will be factored into a child custody decision only if it is supported by a preponderance of the evidence. This does not necessarily mean that the alleged abuser must be convicted of domestic violence by the criminal courts. Instead, there must be enough proof to establish that the parent more likely than not committed an act that qualifies as domestic violence.

Proving domestic violence in your divorce or custody case requires clear and convincing evidence. This evidence may include, but is not limited to, a police report, testimony from a police officer, eyewitness statements, text messages or emails, photographs of physical injuries from domestic abuse, statements from the alleged victim, a psychological evaluation of the alleged abuser, and statements from the child. If there is enough proof to support a domestic violence allegation, this will play a role in a custody determination.

How to Protect Yourself in a Domestic Violence Custody Case

If you are involved in a divorce or legal separation case where your spouse has committed domestic violence or abuse, it is critical to protect yourself and your child. This includes protecting yourself physically as well as legally in a custody case. Take the following steps if you are in this situation:

  1. Call 911 in an emergency. If you or your child are in fear of imminent bodily harm due to domestic violence, call 911 for immediate assistance. Reporting domestic violence can help you create a record of this crime for your custody case later.
  2. Confide in a trusted friend or family member. If you are trapped in an abusive relationship, make a plan to keep yourself and your child safe with assistance from someone that you can trust. If you don’t have anyone in your life to fill this role, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-7233 for support.
  3. Contact a divorce attorney. Once you have ensured your safety, contact a divorce attorney for legal assistance. An attorney can help you file for an emergency protective order (restraining order) as well as for divorce and child custody.

Sadly, domestic violence is not uncommon in family law cases. If your child custody battle involves allegations of domestic violence, it is critical to hire an attorney to represent you. This is true if you are a victim as well as if you are the parent being accused of domestic violence. With so much at stake, hiring an attorney is critical for the protection of your legal rights. For more information about your case, contact The Law Office of Stephen Vertucci, LLC to schedule a consultation with an attorney.

Colorado Child Custody Rights for Non-Biological Parents

Posted in Child Custody on October 29, 2021

Fort Collins child custody attorney

If your family is going through a divorce or legal separation, child custody is most likely one of the most contested factors in your case. If you are a non-biological parent, such as a stepparent, caregiver or legal guardian, you have child custody rights in Colorado. Under state law, there are many circumstances where non-biological parents can be awarded custody and visitation rights. Protecting your legal rights in this situation may require assistance from a child custody attorney.

How is Custody Determined in Colorado?

There is no hard and fast rule for who gets child custody in a family law case. Instead, the courts determine custody on a case-by-case basis according to the best interests of the child (Colorado Revised Statutes Section 14-10-124). This means a judge will choose the arrangement that best protects the child’s physical, emotional and developmental well-being. In making this decision, a judge may look at many factors unique to the case, including:

  • The fitness of the child’s biological parents
  • The child’s emotional ties to both parents and other family members
  • The parents’ wishes
  • The child’s wishes, if old and mature enough
  • Which parent is most likely to allow the other to remain in contact with the child
  • Whether either parent has a history of substance abuse, child abuse, domestic violence, etc.

Overall, a court will rule on a child custody case based on what arrangement will be in a child’s best interests. If this is for a non-biological parent to obtain custody of a child, this is what the courts will decide. As there is a strong underlying notion that a child does best in the custody of his or her natural parents, however, fighting for custody as a non-biological parent or another family member can be difficult.

How to Protect Your Custody Rights as a Non-Biological Parent

You may have child custody rights as a non-biological parent in certain circumstances in Colorado. You or your attorney must prove, however, that you have either become a psychological parent to the child or that allocation of custody with you is what’s best for the child. There are two main scenarios where a non-biological parent has a standing right to file for custody under state law. In these situations, you can submit a request for both physical and legal child custody:

  1. If you are legally the child’s guardian, such as a stepparent, adoptive parent or someone who has had physical custody of the child for at least six months.
  2. If the child is currently not under the care of either biological parent, you can file for custody as any third party – even if you currently don’t have the child in your care.

Protect your rights to custody as a non-biological parent by hiring an attorney to represent you during this complicated type of case. An attorney can help you state your case before a judge, such as demonstrating that the child would be better off in your care. Your attorney can also help you refute allegations or evidence presented by a biological parent, if applicable. An attorney can guide you with trustworthy legal advice as to if and when you are eligible to request custody of a child.

Third-Party Custody Rights

If you are a relative other than a parent, you can also fight for custody. Certain third parties that have a relationship with the child have custody rights, in some situations. In Colorado, a relative such as a grandparent can initiate an Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (APR) case to request custody at any time, even outside of a divorce or legal separation. 

An APR has the power to award parenting time (physical custody), decision-making (legal custody), visitation and child support for minor children. This type of case can be critical for someone who is caring for a minor child but is not the child’s parent, as it can allow the individual the right to see and make important decisions for the child. For more information about how to handle a child custody case as a non-biological parent, contact an attorney in Fort Collins today.

Options for Enforcing a Custody Order in Colorado

Posted in Child Custody on July 29, 2021

A custody order is a legal obligation that must be obeyed. While most people comply with court orders without issue, some decide to go against the law and make decisions that violate legal requirements. If your ex-spouse substantially breaches a custody order or repeatedly makes minor infractions, you have legal rights. Discuss your options for enforcing a custody order with an attorney in Colorado for assistance.

Police Intervention

First, consider whether or not you should involve the police. If you do not know where your child is, cannot get in touch with your ex-spouse, suspect parental kidnapping or believe that your child is in imminent danger of bodily harm, call 911 immediately. The police can take down a report, help you locate your child and file criminal charges against your ex. If your ex is convicted of a crime such as child endangerment or parental abduction, this can lead to a change in your custody order, as well – allowing you to better protect your child and your rights.

File a Motion With the Courts

Whether or not you need to involve the police, most attorneys recommend filing a motion with the courts for a violation of a custody agreement. Tell the courts that your ex-spouse is not complying with the terms of a court order by filing a Motion to Enforce. Issues with custody agreements are typically expedited, meaning that the courts will hear your case sooner rather than later.

With a Motion to Enforce, the courts can hold your coparent accountable for breaching the terms of a custody order or denying visitation. A judge may be able to help you by reaffirming your parental responsibilities, giving you extra time with your child for missed visitation or days of custody, fining your ex-spouse for the violation, and/or requiring your ex to give you financial compensation for your related legal fees. A Motion to Enforce is the most common legal remedy for a violated custody order.

Modify the Custody Agreement

If the violation was an isolated incident, it is not likely that the courts will get involved. However, if the incident was severe – such as taking the child out of state without permission – or a parent is guilty of repeat violations, then the courts may grant a request to modify the custody agreement. You or your attorney can file a request to amend your child custody agreement, such as decreasing the violating party’s parenting time. The courts may accept your request if they believe it is in the best interests of your child.

File a Motion for Contempt

You may also have grounds to file a Motion for Contempt. This is a motion requesting that the courts penalize your ex-spouse for failing to fulfill a custody order. If the courts find the violating party in contempt of court, he or she may face repercussions such as a fine or even jail time. However, filing a Motion to Enforce or modifying the custody agreement are generally preferred remedies over a Motion for Contempt.

What Not to Do

Just as it is important to know what to do if your ex is violating a custody order, it is also important to know what not to do. For example, do not retaliate against your ex-spouse by withholding child support. Child support and child custody are two separate orders. If you stop paying child support, you will still be held responsible for the full amount of your obligation, including your missed payments.

It is also important not to take matters into your own hands. Having a civilized conversation with your ex-spouse about meeting the terms of your custody agreement can be a productive way to resolve the dispute. However, resorting to threats, violence or “stealing” your child back can do more harm than good – including causing your child emotional distress. Remain calm and remind yourself that there are effective legal outlets to help you successfully resolve the situation. Then, contact an attorney for professional assistance.