Q. What is the difference between custody and parental responsibilities?
A. Colorado does not use the word "custody" any longer to describe the parent with whom a child resides and who makes decisions for them. Since 1999, Colorado law has provided that the court allocate "parental responsibilities" for the child between parents in the best interests of the child. This allocation of parental responsibilities includes parenting time and decision-making responsibilities for the child. In practical terms, it sets forth which parent makes major decisions for the child (one or both parents), where the child primarily resides, and parenting time for the non-residential parent.
Q. Is there a presumption that parents will make major decisions (i.e., medical treatment, school, religion, etc.) for the children together?
A. Under Colorado law, there is not a presumption that the parents will make major decisions together. The court will order decision-making responsibilities in accordance with the best interests of the children, after considering a number of factors such as whether the parents can work together, past pattern of involvement of each parent, and whether there has been child abuse or domestic violence.
Q. Does the court always award equal, shared parenting time to each parent?
A. No. While, in some states, there is a presumption that a child will reside with each parent an equal amount of time, Colorado law determines parenting time in the best interests of the child.
Q. Is there a normal or standard parenting time schedule?
A. No. Each case is considered individually by the court. In Colorado, each parent is entitled to "reasonable" parenting time with their child unless the court finds parenting time would be dangerous, physically or mentally, to the child. The court will determine parenting time based upon what is in the best interests of the child after considering several different factors such as the wishes of the parents, wishes of the child, relationship between the child and his parents and siblings, past level of involvement of each parent, and the child’s adjustment to their home, school and community.
Q. What happens if we cannot agree on an allocation of parental responsibilities?
A. The court will ultimately decide for you.
Q. At what age can a child decide which parent (s)he wants to live with?
A. Under Colorado law, there is no set age in which a child can decide which parent he/she wants to live with. However, one of the factors in determining the best interests of the child is the child’s preference, when they are mature enough.
This information is not to be interpreted as providing legal services, nor as proposing any form of legal advice. By providing this general information, no attorney-client privilege is established. If you are uncertain about your legal rights, you should consider consulting with a qualified attorney. Specific questions should be directed to Kama McConaughy Sarkissian at (303) 649-0999.
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