For spouses who share children, no part of divorce causes as much apprehension as the decision of child custody and division of parenting time. It’s difficult for parents to accept that a judge has the final say on when and for how long they can spend time with their children, but the courts have the task of deciding all matters in the best interests of the children.
In the best-case scenario, both parents openly communicate and compromise and decide on a workable parenting time schedule for sharing custody. If this is the case, an attorney can help draft a shared parenting time schedule and the judge is highly likely to sign off on the agreement. However, if child custody becomes contentious, and parents are unable to reach an agreement, the court must choose for them.
If a court order for child custody is ahead for you, there are some fundamental questions to ask a potential family law lawyer in Fort Collins during your initial interview.
Does the Court Typically Side With Women in Child Custody Decisions?
Historically, courts in most states favored women in custody decisions, believing there were negative consequences when separating young children from their mothers. However, that belief is outdated and no longer prevalent in any state. Colorado does not favor the mother or the father in custody decisions and instead bases all decisions on the best interests of the child. The court begins with the presumption that continued close contact with both parents is in a child’s best interests. This is a rebuttable presumption—meaning it’s up to you to demonstrate to the court that your desired outcome for custody is what’s in your child’s best interest.
What State Laws Pertain to My Custody Case?
Most spouses aren’t aware of their state’s custody laws until they’re facing divorce themselves. One of the first questions to ask a child custody lawyer is what the laws in your state require for your case. For example, Colorado prefers the term “parental responsibility” to custody. In joint parental responsibility, parents share an equal or near-equal number of overnights with their children. If one parent has 90% or more of the children’s overnights, they’re considered as having primary parental responsibility.
Colorado also separates physical parental responsibility from legal decision-making custody. This requires the parents or court to determine which parent can make important, non-emergency decisions for the child, including for their education, religion, and medical decisions, or if they can share this responsibility with open communication.
What is Your General Assessment of My Custody Case and the Most Likely Outcome?
Once your Fort Collins child custody attorney tells you what’s required by law and the court’s requirement to decide all matters in the best interests of the children, they can look at the relevant facts in your case and give you a fair and honest assessment of what the judge is likely to consider as in your child’s best interests. While no lawyer can guarantee an outcome, they can probably tell you what’s most likely to occur in your case.
What Important Basics Should I Know Before Hiring Your Firm for My Child Custody Case?
It’s always essential to be clear about what to expect during the process of the lawyer’s representation of you in your child custody case, including for example:
What are the fees and payment structure?
Who in the firm will I be meeting with, and will they be representing me in negotiations and court appearances?
What are the best ways to reach you and how often should I expect to hear updates on the progress of my child custody case?
What can help my case; for instance, parenting classes, counseling, or documenting interactions with the children?
It’s also important to assess your rapport with the attorney representing you in this most important legal matter. You should choose someone with a track record of satisfied clients and someone with whom you feel comfortable and at ease.