Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (Child Custody)

When parents separate, they make emotionally charged decisions in a tense and sometimes contentious context. Parents balance the new reality of their split relationship with each other with their continued support and nurturing of their children.

Colorado courts seek to allocate parental responsibilities (formerly called “child custody”) in the “best interest of the children,” which is a legal term that requires a judge to apply a certain set of principles to the decision regarding child custody.

Virtually every parent will say that they want what is best for the child. Often, with the help of an attorney (and sometimes a third party like a mediator), parents can resolve their disputes and come to an agreement that is in the children’s best interest. But sometimes parents disagree.

There are two main categories of parental responsibilities that a judge must allocate in a contested custody case: parenting time and decision making. Parenting time refers to which parent cares for the child during what time, and decision making refers to which parent has the legal authority to make decisions for a child (for example, consenting to medical treatment or choosing a school).

How Child Custody Cases and Visitation Policies are Decided

If parents cannot agree, the court will look at various factors to determine how to allocate parental responsibilities. In evaluating those factors, the court may consider the child’s own wishes about parenting time. The judge will look to the future and try to put a plan together that protects the child’s relationship with both parents, provided such a relationship is appropriate and healthy.

Because the judge has significant leeway in making a decision about child custody, it is important to speak to an attorney at the beginning of the case. How the custody issues are handled early on may affect how the court rules. An experienced lawyer may also help diffuse the conflict with the other parent; it is important to use the contested custody process to plan for the future rather than fight about the past.

Which is not to say that the past does not matter. Especially if there are issues of domestic violence, power and control, physical and emotional abuse, drug use, alcoholism, or issues surrounding a party’s mental health, previous experience can predict future behavior. And an appropriate parenting plan will understand how that behavior needs to be managed in the future.

What to Consider in a Child Custody Case

Custody decisions are complex. While you cannot predict the future, you want to consider how your parenting plan should (or should not) change as your children grow up and their lives and relationships change.

At Dailey Law, P.C., we have experience with various parenting plans for children of all ages and can help you reach a solution that works for you and your family. Because each family is different, the standard solutions to custody problems may not be a good fit for you, and we know how to help you solve problems and make decisions when emotions are running high. We will discuss your goals early and often, and we will help you reach an agreement (or, if we cannot, advocate for a position in court) that protects your children’s best interests.