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. The Law Office of Stephen Vertucci understands how difficult this time can be, which is why we make it our mission to make the process as smooth and conflict-free as possible.

When you and your soon-to-be-ex spouse just can’t seem to come together, a compassionate and experienced child custody attorney 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.

Fort Collins 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 Child Custody

If you have to bring your divorce case to the Colorado family court, it will use several important criteria to determine child custody. The number one doctrine determining matters in custody cases is the “best interests of the child.” All states have their own list of factors that a judge considers to figure out what custody arrangement would serve the child’s best interests. Here’s what goes into the decision-making process in Colorado:

  1. Wishes of Parents and Child – A judge doesn’t completely ignore the wishes of the parents. Each parent will have the opportunity to say his or her piece and make a claim to parenting time and decision-making responsibilities. If the child is old enough (around 12 years old or older) to form a reasonable opinion, the judge will take the child’s wishes into consideration.
  1. Child’s Relationship with Guardians – The judge will examine the child’s relationship with his or her mother, father, and other family members, such as grandparents, aunts, and uncles. The judge will consider each parent’s willingness to have a strong, healthy relationship with the child. Day-to-day involvement in the child’s life, such as making meals and taking the child to school, can become part of the equation.
  1. Child’s Adjustment to Surroundings – If possible, a judge will keep the child in the home, school, and church he or she already knows. Uprooting a child during a divorce is often not in the child’s best interests, and judges typically try to prevent doing so if at all possible. Keeping the child in a comfortable community may play a role in who gets the most parental time with the child.
  1. Mental and Physical Fitness of Both Parents – Both parents will undergo physical and mental evaluations of health. A judge will not grant custody to a parent that poses a threat to a child’s wellbeing in any way. Past instances of child abuse and neglect with a parent can limit that parent’s responsibilities over the child. Any history of domestic violence, illegal activity, or spousal abuse between parents will also affect the outcome.
  1. Best Arrangement for the Child – Joint custody is a common solution the courts will deliver to keep a child close to both parents. A joint custody agreement involves both parents sharing decision-making responsibilities and parenting time. A 50/50 time division is uncommon, as it can be difficult to implement. Instead, the court will often award something like a 20/80 split, where children stay primarily with one parent during the week and another parent on the weekends (or a similar arrangement).
  1. What Makes the Child Safe – The Colorado courts have the power to decide exactly which responsibilities each parent will have. For example, one parent may have the right to decide a child’s religion and education, while another is in control of healthcare decisions. These split arrangements are uncommon but can occur depending on the circumstances of the case. Sole custody to one parent is also rare, but the courts might find it appropriate in a case involving child abuse.

Every custody battle is different. The one constant is that the judge will rule in the child’s best interests. Sole custody, joint custody, and supervised visits are all possible outcomes and the choice will come down to what the judge thinks is best for the child.

Getting the Legal Help For Your Colorado Child Custody Dispute

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 Fort Collins child custody lawyers at the Law Office of Stephen Vertucci at 970.900.1800 today and arrange for a consultation.

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