Child Custody

How Are Child Custody Decisions Made in Colorado?

Posted in Child Custody on July 27, 2021

If you and your ex-spouse share children from your marriage, you will need to determine child custody, visitation and support during your divorce case. Child custody – called parental responsibilities in Colorado – may be the most important aspect of your divorce. Many people hire child custody attorneys for assistance. Learn more about how child custody decisions are made in Colorado to better understand your rights and legal options as a parent.

Can I Make My Own Child Custody Plan?

Yes. You and your ex-spouse can work together to create your own custody arrangement, also known as a parenting plan. First, you will need to determine legal and physical custody. Legal custody is the right to make decisions for your child, such as what school or church your child attends. Physical custody is the physical care of the child. Both parents may share both types of custody (the most common scenario). However, it is also possible for one parent to have legal custody but not physical custody, and vice versa.

What Does “The Best Interests of the Child” Mean?

If you cannot compromise with your ex-spouse to create a child custody arrangement that is fair and reasonable, you will have to take the matter to a judge in Colorado. Despite the common misconception, a judge does not automatically grant custody to the mother. According to Colorado Revised Statutes Section 14-10-124(3), a judge must determine a custody arrangement based on the best interests of the child. This means what is best for the child’s physical, psychological and spiritual wellbeing.

In general, the law holds that co-parenting, where the child stays in frequent and continuing contact with both parents, is in the best interests of a child. If this is not safe or plausible, however, a judge may allocate parental responsibilities solely to one parent. A judge may also order joint custody, where both parents share custody of a child. The arrangement will depend on many factors but will always work toward one main goal: to serve the child’s best interests.

What Factors Will a Judge Consider?

Child custody decisions during a divorce are extremely complicated. Your case may require an in-depth look at your family life, home, relationships, psychological state, background, job and many other factors to determine the best custody arrangement. Some of the factors that a judge in Colorado will consider when determining parental responsibilities include:

  • The emotional bond between the child and parent
  • How much the child is attached to his or her home, school and community
  • The mental and physical health of both parents
  • Social factors, such as a parent’s lifestyle
  • Each parent’s living situation
  • How far away the parents live from each other
  • Each parent’s ability to care for the child
  • Any history of criminal accusations or drug or alcohol abuse
  • Domestic violence accusations or convictions
  • The age and needs of the child
  • The child’s preferences, if old enough and mature enough

A judge will often enlist the assistance of child health and wellness professionals, such as therapists, to determine the best interests of the child. The professional may interview you or your child. You may need to undergo a psychological evaluation, as well, if your spouse or a judge requests one. Overall, a judge will make a custody arrangement based on what is best for the child’s health, safety, development and emotional needs.

Can I Modify a Child Custody Agreement?

It is difficult, but not impossible, for a parent to modify a custody order in Colorado. However, the courts require a valid and compelling reason to make the change. For example, one parent’s situation must have substantially changed, such as the parent moving out of state or going to jail. Additionally, the parent must demonstrate that the existing custody order is no longer in a child’s best interests. For more information or assistance with a child custody matter in Fort Collins, contact an experienced attorney.

Child Custody and Relocation in Colorado

Posted in Child Custody,Child Relocation on July 23, 2021

A common issue involved with a child custody arrangement is one parent wishing to relocate. A spouse may wish to move farther away to have a fresh start after the breakup, or may get relocated for work long after the divorce. Whatever the reason, specific protocols must be met to legally relocate with a minor child in Colorado. If you are dealing with a child move-away or relocation matter, consult with a child relocation attorney right away for assistance.

Can a Parent Relocate With a Child During or After Divorce?

Yes, a parent can move away or relocate with a child during or after a divorce, but only if the parent meets certain requirements. There are legal obligations that must be met before the parent can move. If the divorce has not yet been finalized and the couple does not have a custody agreement, the moving parent will need permission from the other parent or the court to relocate a child (even temporarily). In general, it is difficult to get this permission from the courts during a pending divorce.

If the couple is divorced and a parent with primary or joint custody wishes to move someplace that will substantially change his or her geographic location, the parent must also obtain permission from the other parent or a judge. The proper steps for relocating are:

  1. The moving party must provide written notice of the intent to move as soon as practicable.
  2. The party must write down the location where he or she wishes to move and the reason for the relocation.
  3. The party must include a new proposed parenting that takes the new location into account.
  4. If the other parent does not permit the move, the moving party can file a Motion to Relocate.
  5. Both parents will then have to speak before a judge on the issue during a relocation trial.
  6. A judge will review the facts of the case and determine whether the relocation serves the child’s best interests.

If the case goes to court in Colorado, the courts will generally make it a priority. Under Colorado law, a court should schedule a relocation hearing within 35 days of an opposing parent filing an objection. When determining a relocation matter, a judge will look at factors such as the current custody arrangement and the needs and desires of the child. If a judge grants the relocation request, it may also give a new custody order.

What if Your Ex Relocated Without Your Permission?

Without permission from the other spouse or the courts, it is against the law for a parent to relocate with a child during or after a divorce. It does not matter if the moving parent has primary or sole custody; the parent must still go through the proper outlets to receive permission to move, especially if the proposed relocation is out of state.

If your ex-spouse moved away with your child without your permission or an order from the court, take action immediately. If you believe your child is in imminent danger, call the police. This is called parental kidnapping and it is a crime in all 50 states. Then, go to the family court that created your custody order and file for an emergency or expedited relocation hearing. The courts will have resources to help you hold your ex-spouse accountable. They may also alter a custody agreement if your ex is no longer serving the best interests of your child.

Can You Modify Custody Due to Relocation?

If your ex-spouse plans on moving to a different geographical area – someplace farther than just the next town over – you can request a custody order modification from a judge. A judge may modify your custody arrangement if your ex-spouse plans to place a significant amount of distance between your households. As is the case with all custody matters, a judge will rule according to the best interests of the child. For legal assistance relocating or stopping a child relocation in Colorado, contact a family law attorney today.

What Happens to an Adopted Child During a Divorce?

Posted in Child Custody,Child Relocation,Divorce on June 29, 2021

An adopted child is viewed in the same way as a biological child by the divorce courts in Colorado. This means if you and your spouse get divorced with an adopted child, matters such as child custody and child support will be determined in much the same way as if the child were biological and born of the marriage. There may be some special considerations, however, related to the adoption. For assistance with a complicated child custody matter, contact a Fort Collins divorce lawyer.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

You and your spouse will have the opportunity to reach a settlement agreement that determines issues such as child custody, visitation and child support on your own, without court intervention. This is what is known as an uncontested divorce case. It may be helpful to use a form of alternative dispute resolution, such as mediation or arbitration, to reach a settlement agreement with your spouse and avoid a trial. If you cannot reach a settlement regarding custody of an adopted child or another key issue, your divorce case will have to go to court. This means you would have a contested divorce.

Colorado Child Custody Laws

In Colorado, the family courts will look at many different things to determine child custody if your divorce case goes to trial. For the most part, the courts will want the adopted child to remain in contact with both parents. Adoptive parents have a duty to care for and provide for the child as they would with children born of the marriage. However, the main factor is the adopted child’s best interests.

Custody of an adopted child is based on factors such as:

  • The wishes of both parents and the child
  • The child’s relationship to either parent
  • The child’s connection to his or her community and surroundings
  • The child’s safety and wellbeing
  • Any special circumstances or special needs the child has
  • Each parent’s living situation
  • Family history

These are the same factors that are considered when determining custody of a biological child in a divorce case in Colorado. Adopted children also have the right to receive financial support from both parents, meaning the courts may require one spouse (typically the noncustodial parent) to pay the other child support.

Special Considerations for Adopted Children

If the child is one parent’s biological child and the other parent’s adopted child, the courts will value both parental relationships in the same way. The parent with the biological relationship to the child will not receive preference based on this. Each parent will be viewed as the child’s legal parent and treated the same way.

One special issue that may arise in a divorce case involving an adopted child is an adoption subsidy payment. Subsidy payments are given to the child in an amount that may be several hundred dollars each month. If the parents get divorced, the adopted child will continue to receive this subsidy payment until he or she reaches the age of majority.

In general, an adoption subsidy is viewed as the child’s property and does not change how much the noncustodial parent must pay in child support. A portion of the subsidy, however, may be given to the other parent based on his or her share of parenting time. Like child custody and other divorce matters, a couple always has the ability to determine child support on their own before the matter goes to a judge.

What If the Adoption Is Still Pending?

If you and your spouse split up while an adoption is still pending, your divorce may affect the adoption. If the adoptive mother is making the final decision, for instance, she may not give her consent to the adoption after learning of your divorce. In addition, the court in charge of the adoption will consider how the divorce might affect the child. If the birth mother still consents and one parent wishes to proceed with the adoption, there is a chance that it will still go through. These are complicated cases, however, that deserve legal attention. Contact a divorce attorney in Colorado today for more information.

Is it Possible to Refuse a Court-Ordered Visitation in Colorado?

Posted in Child Custody on March 22, 2021

Child custody is a complicated matter in a divorce case in Colorado. Physical custody refers to the physical control of a child, while legal custody is the right to make important decisions. Child visitation, also known as parenting time, refers to a parent’s legal right to visit with his or her child. If your ex tries to refuse a court-ordered visitation, you have legal rights.

Visitation Rights Explained

A child custody arrangement is a parenting time schedule you must comply with after a divorce. A judge’s goal for child custody and visitation is to protect the child’s best interests. The courts operate under the belief that a child does best when he or she remains in contact with both parents. Therefore, except with an issue such as domestic violence or child abuse, most child custody agreements have shared or joint custody.

If one parent has primary custody, the other parent may have visitation rights. This is the right to visit with a child for a specific period of time, either with or without supervision. Visitation uses scheduled meetings that generally last for a few hours. The meeting may be supervised if the case involves issues such as domestic violence or substance abuse.

In general, it is against the law to refuse a court-ordered visitation in Colorado. Any type of court order in a family law case must be obeyed. Failing to comply with an order from a judge can lead to significant penalties, including fines, being held in contempt of court, jail time and even criminal charges. The penalties will be especially severe if the parent’s actions harmed the wellbeing of the child, such as in a parental kidnapping case.

What to Do If Your Spouse Is Refusing Visitation

If your ex-spouse is refusing to allow your child to come to a court-ordered visitation, he or she may be in violation of the law. The best way to handle this is to go to the family court and file an official complaint against your ex-spouse. Get in touch with your divorce attorney for assistance. You may be eligible for additional visitations to make up for the ones you missed. The courts may also offer other remedies, such as giving you a break with child support. In extreme cases, your ex-spouse may even lose custody.

However, if your spouse returned to the courts, presented a case for your visitation to be withdrawn and was granted the right to deny visitation, you may have no legal options against the custodial parent. Instead, you will need to work to remedy the issue and return to the courts at a later time to argue for the reinstatement of your visitation rights. The same is true if your spouse cited an emergency situation as a reason to withhold visitation, such as becoming aware of drug abuse or someone new living in your residence.

COVID-19 and Child Visitation

The COVID-19 pandemic is not a valid reason to refuse a court-ordered visitation in Colorado. The state courts have made it clear that a custodial parent must go through the correct legal processes to alter a court-ordered custody or visitation agreement during the pandemic. If your ex-spouse withheld visitation and cited COVID-19 as a reason, this does not excuse his or her lack of compliance with a court order. You will have the right to take your ex-spouse to court for violating your parenting time agreement.

When Is a Child Old Enough to Refuse Parenting Time?

Colorado’s custody laws state that a child may be able to refuse parenting time or a court-ordered visitation if he or she is old enough and mature enough to make this decision. This may occur at many different ages but typically starts at the age of 14. Older children, such as 16 or 17 years old, will generally have more say in parental visitation.

For more information about child visitation in Colorado, or for help with your ex-spouse’s refusal to uphold a parenting plan, contact an attorney today.

How Can Social Media Affect My Divorce Claim?

Posted in Child Custody,Divorce,Spousal support on January 18, 2021

You may not think something as trivial as social media could make an impact on a legal process such as a divorce claim. In law, however, social media activity can become evidence. What you post on social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook could be used against you during a divorce case. It can be critical to the success of your case, therefore, to stay off social media until your divorce has been finalized.

What Content On Social Media Could Hurt Your Divorce Claim?

What you believe is harmless social media activity may be anything but. During a divorce case, your spouse’s defense counsel can search through all of your social media accounts – including those with strict privacy settings – for evidence to use against you. An attorney can twist almost anything you say or post against you during a divorce case.

Relationship Updates

It is wise to keep any new developments in your love life quiet until the completion of your divorce case. Updating your status to “In a Relationship” with another person could negatively affect your ongoing divorce. For example, your ex-spouse may be able to argue against giving you custody by showing that you are already introducing your child to a new person.

Photos of New (Expensive) Purchases

Don’t post any photos, videos or information about new purchases you made while going through a divorce case. This could be portrayed as you trying to reduce your financial assets in preparation for a divorce. Frivolous spending – such as on a new TV, car or boat – could also work against you if you wish to file a claim for spousal support.

Jokes or Threats About Hiding Assets

Never make light about hiding assets on social media (or off of social media). This is a serious crime during a divorce case. Even if you were only making a joke and weren’t actually going to hide assets from your ex, the courts will take it as a reason to investigate your financial status further. Whether or not the courts find any hidden assets, indulging in these jokes can position the courts against you.

Badmouthing Your Spouse Online

The courts will look at many factors when deciding something as important as child custody – including your social media activity. If you have several posts or comments badmouthing or threatening your spouse, this could impact your claim to custody if a judge thinks your behaviors or attitude could have a negative effect on your child.

Photos of You Enjoying Yourself

If part of your divorce involves allegations of domestic violence or abuse, photographs posted on social media where you are partying or celebrating could hurt your case. Your goal will be to prove that your spouse caused you emotional distress – something that will be harder to do with photos posted online of you enjoying yourself.

How to Use Social Media Wisely During Your Divorce

Your spouse’s attorney will be able to use almost anything you post online to hurt your case. Even if you think you’re being careful online, it can surprise you what a lawyer can twist around and use to portray you as an unfaithful, dishonest, unreliable or even violent person. The best way to keep yourself safe is by staying off social media entirely.

If you must use social media during an ongoing divorce case, remain discreet. Do not post any direct status updates or comments, especially about your divorce or your activities. Do not check-in to different locations or let your whereabouts be known. Do not post any images or videos online that reveal anything about your life. Tell your friends not to tag you in these types of posts, either. Never discuss your divorce with anyone online, even in private messages.

Before you delete old social media content during a divorce proceeding, consult with a divorce attorney. Even deleting things could make you look suspicious to a judge. Work with an experienced attorney to understand what to do and what not to do on social media during a divorce case in Colorado to fully protect your rights. A lawyer can help you avoid common mistakes.

The Effects of Coronavirus/COVID-19 on Child Custody

Posted in Child Custody on December 14, 2020

Child custody was already a complicated matter before the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic made it dangerous for some parents to divide time spent with a child. The coronavirus has changed the landscape of parenting time and visitation orders with safety measures such as lockdowns and stay-at-home rules. Families now have to consider new challenges when dividing custody between households in a divorce case.

Greater Collaboration Between Parents

Divorced parents have had to come together more than ever for the sake of their children during the coronavirus pandemic. For many families, it has not been a viable option to continue following a judge’s child custody arrangement without communicating new concerns and issues. Many families have had to change the way they do things to protect the safety of their children, such as limiting the number of transitions between two households. Transparent communication between spouses has been integral.

If you are a divorced co-parent during the pandemic, do your best to communicate openly and effectively with both your ex and your child. Voice your concerns if you have fears or anxieties about your child’s safety. Do not, however, take custody into your own hands. You do not have the legal right to change a custody agreement. You and your spouse must agree to an alteration together or you must obtain a court order from a judge. Open communication is key to maintaining a child custody and visitation agreement that works for everyone in these unprecedented times.

Use of Technology to Bridge the Gap

Families with the greatest concerns about the coronavirus and child custody are often dealing with issues such as one parent being an essential worker who is at an increased risk of contracting the virus, or a parent who is vulnerable to the virus not being able to risk in-person visits with a child. If your circumstances prevent you and your ex-spouse from sharing in-person time with your child the way you used to with your custody agreement, turn to technology to bridge the gap.

Many families are using videoconferencing tools such as Zoom, Skype and Facetime to allow parents to see their children while social distancing. Consider whether digital visitation is the right option for your family if you are worried about the risk of contracting the virus with in-person parenting time. Communicate with your ex-spouse to make sure he or she is on the same page. If you refuse to let your co-parent see your child without a court order, or vice versa, this can lead to being held in contempt of court, with consequences such as potential jail time.

What About a Pre-Existing Court Order?

If you fear for your child’s safety with COVID-19, you can file for an emergency modification to your custody agreement. You cannot modify custody without permission from a judge. The law in Colorado obligates you and your ex-spouse to follow the court-ordered child custody and visitation agreement already in place before COVID-19. If your family is concerned about sharing time between households, such as concerns about exposing a child with special needs or health conditions to the virus, you can file a new motion with the court to restrict your ex-spouses parenting time.

To change a custody agreement during the pandemic, you will need to prove that your co-parent has either tested positive to the coronavirus or that he or she poses a high risk of danger due to his or her occupation. Judges in Colorado decide on changes to custody agreements ordered pre-coronavirus on a case-by-case basis. If you need help protecting your child during the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic by altering a child custody order or if you need assistance going up against a spouse who is withholding custody, contact an attorney in Fort Collins for advice.

What Can I Expect at an Emergency Custody Hearing?

Posted in Child Custody on October 23, 2020

Even in the best of circumstances, a custody hearing can be a difficult and emotional process. An emergency custody hearing can be even more overwhelming due to the grave nature of the complaint. Emergency hearings for child custody typically involve dangerous or time-sensitive issues, such as suspected child abuse or neglect. If you are part of an emergency custody hearing in Colorado, learn what to expect from the legal process.

Petition for an Emergency Custody Hearing

An emergency custody hearing can garner results and protect a child much faster than a traditional custody hearing. A judge will push an emergency hearing to the front of the schedule rather than making a petitioner wait for the next available court date. The first step of an emergency custody hearing is the filing of a petition by a parent who is concerned for the welfare of his or her child.

One parent must petition the courts for an emergency hearing with his or her reason and the type of relief sought. To justify the need for an emergency custody hearing in Colorado, the petitioner will need to claim circumstances such as abuse, neglect, a sex offender in the child’s home or substance abuse by the custodial parent. The parent will also list the type of relief sought, such as temporary custody or taking away the other parent’s visitation rights.

Preliminary Evidence Submitted and Reviewed

The parent filing the petition will need to submit evidence supporting his or her belief that the child is in danger. During an emergency hearing, a judge will only consider the evidence connected to the emergency. A judge will not look at future custody issues during an emergency hearing, such as more permanent custody arrangements. Instead, the judge may arrange a later court date if you wish to modify your custody agreement or make other changes that are not directly connected to the emergency.

If you are the person filing the petition, you will need to support it with evidence of why you believe your child is in danger. Common types of evidence used during an emergency custody hearing are police reports, domestic violence reports, child protective service documents, statements from people who witnessed the abuse or event, a child’s medical records, and reports from a child psychologist. A judge will not rule in your favor unless you can prove using evidence that the child is in danger where he or she currently resides.

A Judge’s Decision

Each district in Colorado has its own emergency custody hearing process. For the most part, a judge will assess the evidence submitted and make a decision the same day. At the end of an emergency custody hearing, a judge in Colorado will either grant the petitioner the relief sought or deny the claim. If a judge agrees that the child is in danger, the judge may issue a temporary order that grants custody to the filing parent based on the evidence presented. A judge will always rule according to what he or she believes is in the best interest of the child.

A judge’s decision during an emergency custody hearing is often not the end of a case. In many situations, a judge will follow up by appointing a child psychologist or welfare agent to continue investigating the family and the child endangerment allegation. A judge may also order the parent who was in the wrong to attend mandatory anger management, substance abuse or parenting classes, depending on the situation.

Follow Up With a Full Trial

Temporary orders won during an emergency custody hearing may not be enough to protect your child in the long term. You may need to follow up with a full custody trial. A judge may or may not agree to reinstate the abusive parent’s custody or visitation rights at a full custody hearing based on the results of an investigation. Hire a child custody lawyer in Colorado for assistance with a full custody trial. Your lawyer can help you gather evidence of child abuse or endangerment to submit to a judge during an emergency hearing. Then, your attorney can help you follow up with a full custody hearing for a more permanent solution.

Child Custody and Visitation During the COVID-19

Posted in Child Custody on June 2, 2020

It is an unprecedented time for parents as they cope with the novel COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic. Canceled school, closed-down day cares and shelter-in-place orders have led to a lot of confusion and frustration for parents with small children. If you and your ex-spouse have a custody agreement from a divorce or separation in Colorado, you could be at a loss as to how to accommodate your order without jeopardizing the safety of your child. Here is what you need to know about handling custody and visitation safely and legally during COVID-19.

COVID-19 and Social Distancing Rules

As of mid-May 2020, the COVID-19 virus has taken close to 100,000 lives in the US alone. Colorado has reported more than 23,000 cases and 1,300 deaths. The virus appears to spread fastest through face-to-face contact. Federal and state governments are taking steps to try to curb the spread of the virus, such as issuing shelter-in-place orders and social distancing rules. Social distancing refers to staying at least six feet away from people whom you are not in isolation with. It also refers to avoiding group gatherings and crowded places. Anyone who does not live in your household should stay away under social distancing guidelines.

How Do Social Distancing Rules Affect Custody Arrangements?

Social distancing becomes more complicated when a family has a child that usually divides his or her time between both parents. Shelter-in-place and social distancing measures do not easily accommodate a child going back and forth between two different households. The coronavirus does not, however, give a parent the right to breach a custody agreement. Your spouse cannot lawfully withhold custody or visitation for fear of your child contracting COVID-19.

If your ex-spouse is refusing custody or visitation, take the matter to the family courts in Fort Collins using alternate filing procedures requesting a judge’s intervention. You can file electronically, through the mail or using a drop-box location. Many judges in Colorado are making rulings virtually. Make it clear to your co-parent that the courts are not tolerating custody violations during COVID-19 and that he or she could be held in contempt of court for refusing to let you see your child. This could be enough to force your ex-spouse to obey your custody order.

The coronavirus may not change things from a legal perspective, but parents may still have valid concerns over the health and safety of their children. If you worry about your child’s risk of exposure – especially if your ex-spouse works in health care, is exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms or your child is high-risk – discuss the issue with your spouse. Hopefully, your spouse will be reasonable and work with you to minimize the risks to your child. Both households can take extra precautions and sanitary measures, for example, as well as limit who visits each home.

How Will the Response to COVID-19 Affect My Case in the Courts?

If you and your ex-spouse just filed for divorce or were in the middle of a divorce case when the COVID-19 pandemic began, the rest of your case will look different than it did before. The Colorado courts currently remain closed to in-person visits. Most divorce lawyers, however, are continuing their work on cases like usual. They have transitioned to virtual and telecommunication technologies to avoid face-to-face contact with their clients but are still processing claims. You and your ex-spouse may still be able to achieve a divorce settlement or alter a custody plan during COVID-19 using web-based technologies.

Speak to a Family Lawyer

During COVID-19, it may be in your child’s best interests for you and your ex-spouse to agree on temporary custody changes, such as making up missed in-person visits later. Try to work together with your co-parent to create the best temporary parenting plan for your family. Then, have a judge sign off on the changes to cover your legal bases. If your family needs assistance handling a custody matter during the COVID-19 pandemic, contact a child custody attorney. An attorney can help you draft agreements, file petitions, protect your rights and more during this uncertain time.

The Effects of Coronavirus/COVID-19 on Divorce

Posted in Child Custody,Child Support,Divorce,Family Law on April 27, 2020

The coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching implications. It has affected most aspects of life…including marriage and divorce. Couples quarantining together have given rise to speculation of divorce rates increasing, while couples in the middle of divorces are wondering how the virus will affect their cases. Take a look at how the coronavirus has affected divorce for an idea of what to expect.

Is COVID-19 Leading to Higher Divorce Rates?

Several news reports from around the world have confirmed what many divorce lawyers have suspected: lockdowns, self-isolation and quarantine have strained marriages past the point of reconciliation for thousands of couples. One article from the New York Post quotes lawyers from NYC confirming an uptick in the number of divorce cases related to COVID-19, while another from Business Insider reports a spike in divorce cases filed in Xi’an, China upon the lift of its mandatory lockdown.

Divorce lawyers and relationship experts speculate that the rise in divorce petitions has a few different reasons. Couples that might normally have spent more time apart are now stuck with each other for weeks, leading to an increase in stress, frustration and fights. Co-parenting while the family is quarantined may also present new challenges or issues that parents may be unable to overcome. Some couples were already on the brink of divorce, only to have issues related to the coronavirus finally push them past the breaking point. Financial problems connected to job losses are also adding to marital stress and an increase in divorce rates.

How Has the Coronavirus Changed the Divorce Process?

On top of increasing the number of divorces, the coronavirus has also altered the legal process. Most courtrooms in Colorado have temporarily closed or significantly reduced the number of cases accepted, leading to longer wait times than usual for a couple to have a judge hear a divorce case. If your divorce requires a trial, you will most likely have to wait until your county lifts its social distancing requirements and the courts are back in regular session to complete your divorce case.

If you can work out a divorce settlement agreement with your spouse, however, it might be possible to get a divorce without going to court. Some courts have implemented technologies to allow couples to file documents electronically and attend court sessions via videoconferencing. Most divorce lawyers in Colorado are also offering telephone consultations, online document collection and e-signatures on legal documents to help initiate and/or complete divorce proceedings virtually. Many judges are ruling on petitions remotely to finalize them. Ask an attorney if it will be possible to file for divorce or continue a case you filed before COVID-19.

Can I Start Divorce Mediation Now?

The pandemic might have a significant impact on your divorce timeline depending on the circumstances. Many couples trying to divorce during the COVID-19 pandemic are receiving notices from their lawyers explaining that they will have to wait until the country lifts its social distancing regulations to file or continue a case. Others, however, are having good luck with telecommunications and virtual proceedings. Each case and county are unique. Call a lawyer in your county to find out if you and your spouse can start divorce mediation now.

How Will This Affect My Children?

The coronavirus might impact child custody by making it impossible or unsafe for co-parents to take turns with the kids according to their custody agreements. It might be necessary for you and your spouse to work out a temporary custody modification to accommodate social distancing or quarantine requirements. Make sure you do this with help from a lawyer rather than making a verbal agreement. The same is true if you need to modify a child support agreement. If you lost your job because of COVID-19 and can no longer pay child support, contact a lawyer to submit an official modification request. Working closely with a lawyer during this unprecedented and uncertain time can help you get trusted answers to your questions.

How Does the Court Determine Who Gets Custody of the Children After a Divorce in Colorado?

Posted in Child Custody on March 11, 2020

Child custody is one of the most complex aspects of divorce. It is a highly emotional matter deciding who will be physically and legally responsible for your child. The courts of Colorado do not take custody decisions lightly. They analyze many factors and will hear from both sides of the case before determining what custody arrangement is best for the child. Learning what to expect from a custody battle in Colorado can help you prepare for what is to come.

What Are Parental Responsibilities?

Parental responsibility is the term Colorado now uses for child custody. Colorado has two types of parental responsibility: physical (parenting time) and legal (parenting responsibilities). Parenting time describes the physical care of the child at a parent’s home. Legal parental responsibility is the right to make important decisions as to the child’s religion, education and health care. Most custody cases will involve both parents sharing both types of responsibilities. It is possible, though rare, for the courts to assign one parent only one type of custody and not the other.

Factors Involved in Custody Decisions

As is the case in all states, Colorado bases custody decisions during a divorce case on one main priority: the child’s best interest. During your fight for custody of your child after a divorce, you or your child custody lawyer will have the opportunity to present arguments and evidence as to why your desired custody arrangement is best for your child. The courts will assess many factors to understand what will benefit the child the most.

  • The fitness of each parent. The courts will analyze each parent’s background and history, including any history of drug or alcohol abuse, criminal convictions, domestic violence charges (even if not convicted), and mental health disorders.
  • The relationships between the child and each parent. A judge will assess the child’s relationship with each parent, as well as with his or her siblings and grandparents, to determine what would be in the child’s best interest.
  • The child’s establishment in a location. A judge will look at how established the child is in his or her community, including school, church and after-school activities, as well as how well the child might adapt to a new environment.
  • The child’s wishes. If the child is old and mature enough to have an independent opinion (unbiased by a parent’s), a judge may consider the child’s own wishes in terms of where he or she wants to live.

You can improve your odds of attaining the child custody arrangement you desire by hiring a lawyer. A divorce lawyer will know what to say and do to position your case in its best light. A lawyer knows what a judge is looking for when assessing each parent in terms of fitness. You can trust your attorney to do and say what is right for your case while you focus on building a better future for you and your family after divorce.

Common Custody Arrangements

While the courts recognize co-parenting is not appropriate in all situations, they also believe that, in most circumstances, frequent and continuing contact between the child and each parent is in the best interest of all parties (Colorado Revised Statutes 14-10-124). An exception is if the case involves physical, sexual or emotional abuse by one parent, in which case the courts may decide the child is better off 100% in the care of the other parent.

Joint custody is more common than sole custody in Colorado. Joint custody is a split arrangement that gives both parents physical custody some of the time. Some joint custody arrangements are 50/50, but most use another type of division for practical reasons. One parent may have the child every weekend, for example. Sole custody gives one parent 100% of physical custody (and often legal responsibility). The other parent may or may not have visitation rights in a sole custody agreement.