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Child custody cases are emotional and complicated. Both parents want what is best for their child(ren), though often do not agree on what the “best” is. An experienced Fort Collins child custody lawyer at Burnham Law is prepared to handle even the most complex child custody cases, and to ensure that you will be in a better position to protect your interests and the interests of your child. Understanding how custody works in Colorado is crucial so that you can go into your case feeling more clear on the process.
In a Colorado, child custody case, the primary factor the courts will consider above all else is the “best interests” of your child(ren). The standard the courts will use to finalize decisions on parental rights and responsibilities is set out in Colorado law and is known as the “Best Interest of Child (BIC) Test.” This test considers many factors, including:
State laws say that judges should assume frequent contact with both parents is in the child’s best interests unless one parent presents a danger of harm to the child. If you believe the other parent poses a danger to your child, you will need to be able to prove this in court, and your attorney can help your present your evidence properly. Family law in Colorado is also gender neutral, which means that the gender of the parents cannot be taken into account when decisions are made about parenting time and decision-making responsibilities.
Your child custody agreement, however you reach it, will come in the form of a “parenting plan.” This is a document that outlines custody, visitation and decision-making responsibilities. It’s important that this plan address as many details about the custody arrangement as possible. Naturally, it won’t be possible to predict every potential issue and situation you could face in the future, but the more comprehensive the plan is, the fewer chances there are for disputes and confusion later. Your attorney will be able to think of parenting issues you and your spouse have not considered yet, which will help create a more comprehensive plan.
A parenting plan can be modified if circumstances change. In this situation, the parent requesting the changes will have to be able to demonstrate to the court why this modification is warranted. This process can be easy when the parents are in agreement about the changes, but the process is more complicated if one parent objects.
Courts often hesitate to allow changes to a parenting plan because stability is considered to be in a child’s best interest. Talk to a Fort Collins child custody lawyer at Burnham Law about any modifications to a current parenting plan you want to make, to ensure it is executed properly.
Parenting time, which is the amount of time each parent gets to spend with the child, is driven by what is in the child best interests, and will vary case by case. When parents live more than one hour apart, for example, it’s not going to be in the child’s best interest to have equally divided parenting time and have to commute on school days. In a case like this, one potential arrangement would be for the child to stay with one parent more of the time, with the other parent having the child every other weekend, for two to four weeks in the summer, parts of other vacations and for agreed-upon major holidays. The task of driving to and from the residences is usually split between both parents.
In cases where the parents are living in different states or countries, routine weekend schedules are not practical. In these cases, the child will spend the majority of time with one parent. The other parent may have a bigger block of time in the summer and alternate breaks. As with driving, the costs of flying the child between homes is split, usually in proportion to income.
Contact a Fort Collins Child Custody lawyer at Burnham Law about your Colorado child custody case as soon as possible. Even the simplest case on the surface can become complicated quickly, and you’ll need to be informed and prepared every step of the way.