When it comes to divorce in Colorado, there's a lot of information to take in. Because the legal system uses specialized language, or jargon, discussions about divorce can seem particularly confusing. For example, when it comes to who lives with, cares for and provides for the children from your marriage, Colorado no longer uses the word "custody."
Instead, the laws and the courts focus on the allocation of parenting rights and responsibilities. Rights can include time spent with the children and decision-making authority, whiles responsibilities include providing for the basic needs of the children, including through financial support. All the details get spelled out in your family's parenting plan.
What is a parenting plan?
At its most basic, a parenting plan is a formal division of parental rights and responsibilities between both parents. Much like a custody agreement, a parenting plan outlines who cares for the children at different times. This can include where the children stay, how much support is paid, who provides health insurance and much more.
A good parenting plan is thorough, discussing everything from summer vacations to holidays. In some cases, parents will evenly split parental responsibilities and rights. Both parents may share in physical care for the children as well as decision-making about issues like school and medical needs. Other times, one parent may have more allocated rights than the other.
It's important to remember that your parenting plan should focus on the best interests of your children, not your personal wishes. The courts will also look to the best interests of the children when they review any proposed parenting plan or create one for your family.
What do the courts consider the best interests of the children?
In Colorado, the family courts must always do their utmost to act in the best interests of the children involved in a divorce. Generally, this involves having a positive, ongoing relationship with both parents, as well as a stable, positive and healthy home environment. The courts will do their best to uphold both parental relationships while creating or reviewing a parenting plan.
Unless there are serious issues, like a history of addiction, some form of abuse or even neglect, the courts will likely not consider allocating all parental rights and responsibilities to one parent. Instead, they will focus on the best means of dividing them between parents. Failing to comply with court ordered parenting time could negatively impact the outcome of your divorce.
It's important to demonstrate to the courts through your actions that you will focus on the needs of the children, rather than you own wishes. However, if there is any sort of risk to your children, you should absolutely assert your rights and protect them from potential harm.