Child Custody Attorneys in Denver, Colorado
When two parents go through a divorce or separation, one of the most difficult decisions they’ll have to make is how to divide time with their children. Of course, each parent wants to spend as much time as possible with their child and it can be extremely hard to give this up. Furthermore, it’s tough on the kids who now must make a major transition. Because of all that’s involved, it’s essential that child custody decisions and discussions about parental responsibilities be handled efficiently, thoroughly, and thoughtfully.
Many parents find it helpful to work with a family law attorney during this time to ensure everyone’s needs are met. If you’re looking for an experienced lawyer in the Denver, Colorado area, reach out to Attorneys at Law Timlin & Rye, P.C. We’re proud to serve individuals and families in Denver as well as Adams, Arapahoe, Jefferson, and Douglas counties.
Child Custody in Colorado
Each state sets its own laws regarding child custody (which in Colorado is often referred to as “parental responsibilities”). The state then divides this further into “primary” or “joint” responsibility (though you might hear the terms “sole'' or “joint” custody used instead). Under state law, if the child spends fewer than 90 nights per year with one parent, the other parent is often considered to have primary custody. If the two parents equally split the number of nights the child stays over, then they’re said to have joint custody.
However, there are further delineations that you’ll need to understand. Specifically, the state also differentiates between parenting time (physical custody) & decision-making (legal custody).
Parenting time: Parenting time specifically refers to where the child is physically located at any time (i.e. what parent they’re with and at what days and times).
Decision making: This refers to each parent’s ability to make decisions on behalf of their child. These choices typically pertain to things like education, healthcare, or religious upbringing. Importantly, the two parents can each have decision-making rights even if they don’t share joint parental responsibilities.
Parenting time and decision-making are decided separately. Just because a judge orders joint decision-making privileges doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily order equal parenting time. In many cases, the two parents will make all major decisions about their child together, but one parent may have primary custody while the other is given visitation rights.
Establishing a Parenting Arrangement
There are two main options when you’re establishing a parenting arrangement: you and your co-parent come up with a plan that you both agree on, or a judge will intervene to establish a plan.
The first option is generally easier and quicker, but it does require you to be on relatively good speaking terms with your ex-partner. Even if your relationship isn’t perfect, you may be able to set aside differences and focus on your mutual love for your child to come to an agreement. Many couples find it helpful to work with a mediator to help keep the conversations on track. You’ll then write up your terms and present them to the court for approval.
The second option is often more stressful, expensive, and time-consuming. In this scenario, you’ll take your case to a family law court and a judge will listen to arguments from both sides (ideally with the representation of an attorney) before establishing a custody agreement for your family.
Factors Considered in Determining Parental Responsibilities
In either scenario, you’ll of course want to ask, “What factors will be considered in granting custody?” In all cases, a judge will prioritize the needs of the child above all else. They will also evaluate other factors such as:
The ability of each parent to provide for their child
The willingness of each parent to cultivate a positive relationship with the other
Where each parent is physically located
Whether there are other children the child will be living with
How well the child will adjust to a change
The child’s wishes (if the child is old enough)
Modifying an Existing Parenting Arrangement
It’s quite common to request a modification of a child custody agreement, but any changes must go through the right legal channels. In most cases, if both parents agree to the change and the best interests of the child are still represented, a judge will approve a modification. In other cases, you will need to show that you’ve experienced a major life event that necessitates a change. For example, if you’ve recently lost your job or can prove that one parent isn’t holding up their end of the custody agreement, this might be grounds for a modification. Either parent can submit a request for modification with the court, but you should be prepared to present evidence to support your request
Child Custody Attorneys in Denver, Colorado
No one should go through these frustrating and emotional issues alone. With nearly 100 years of cumulative legal experience, our team at Attorneys at Law Timlin & Rye, P.C. is ready and willing to help you sort through your child custody concerns in a way that benefits everyone in your family. Reach out to us today to schedule a consultation.