Who can file a custody (officially referred to as Allocation of Parental Responsibilities) action?
There are three main groups of people eligible to file for custody. Those groups are:
1. A parent through a divorce proceeding or allocation proceeding;
2. A person other than a parent, by filing a petition seeking the allocation of parental responsibilities for the child in the county where the child is permanently resident or where the child is found, but only if the child is not in the physical care of one of the child’s parents;
3. A person other than a parent who has had the physical care of a child for a period of one hundred eighty-two days or more, if such action is commenced within one hundred eighty-two days after the termination of such physical care.
Does my child have any rights?
Yes, your child has three basic rights.
1. The right to have such determinations based upon the best interests of the child;
2. The right to be emotionally, mentally, and physically safe when in the care of either parent;
3. The right to reside in and visit in homes that are free of domestic violence and child abuse or neglect.
How does the court decide with which party my child will live with?
The controlling standard in Colorado is the best interests of the child standard. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, the court shall determine the allocation of parental responsibilities, including parenting time and decision-making responsibilities, in accordance with the best interests of the child giving paramount consideration to the child’s safety and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions and needs of the child as follows.
How does the court determine what is in the best interests of my child?
1. The wishes of the child’s parents as to parenting time;
2. The wishes of the child if he or she is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to the parenting time schedule;
3. The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents, his or her siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;
4. The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;
5. The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability alone shall not be a basis to deny or restrict parenting time;
6. The ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party; except that, if the court determines that a party is acting to protect the child from witnessing domestic violence or from being a victim of child abuse or neglect or domestic violence, the party’s protective actions shall not be considered with respect to this factor;
7. Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support;
8. The physical proximity of the parties to each other as this relates to the practical considerations of parenting time;
9. The ability of each party to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs.
Does that mean my child gets to pick who they want to live with?
No, your child’s opinion is only one of the nine factors the courts take into consideration.
Will my child have to take the stand and testify?
In almost all cases, your child will not testify.
Well, if they can’t testify, how will their interests be protected?
The court may, upon the motion of either party or upon its own motion, appoint a neutral third person to serve the court as a child and family investigator. A child and family investigator appointed by the court may be an attorney, a mental health professional, or any other individual with appropriate training, qualifications, and an independent perspective acceptable to the court. The child and family investigator for the court shall investigate, report, and make recommendations as specifically directed by the court in the appointment order, taking into consideration the relevant factors for determining the best interests of the child.
How long does it take for the court to award custody?
Generally, custody cases take anywhere from 6-8 months but that varies based on whether there are other non-custody issues to be litigated. The final decision will be issued at a Permanent Orders Hearing. At the Permanent Orders Hearing, the Judge will listen to all the evidence and testimony presented and make a ruling based on what is in the best interests of the child.
Do I need an attorney for this process?
Technically, the answer is no. However, each step in this process is incredibly nuanced and in order to maximize your odds of success you should consult with an attorney
If you have issues with child custody contact us for a consultation at https://www.m2lawyers.com/contact-us/ or call us at 303-407-0453.