When determining custody (parenting time) in Colorado, the Court must make a decision based on the child’s best interests. Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-124 sets out nine factors for the court to consider when determining the child’s best interests. These include:
1. The wishes of the child’s parents
The Court will assume that the parents want what is best for their child. In cases where parenting time is contested, each parent is usually asking for something different, so this factor is usually not what the Court will base its decision on.
2. The wishes of the child
There is no set age where a Court will or will not consider a child’s wishes. Instead, the Court may consider the child’s wishes in making a decision only if the child is mature enough to make a reasoned and independent decision. In some circumstances, the Court may speak with a child, but this is not common. Determining the child’s wishes will usually require a parenting expert to speak with the child and let the court know the child’s wishes, and whether they feel the child is mature enough to be make a “reasoned” decision, or is being influenced by one of the parents.
3. The child’s interactions and relationship with other family members
The Court will examine how the child interacts with each parent, and may also include siblings, parents’ significant others, step-siblings or other extended family members.
4. The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community
The Court can consider how comfortable a child seems in the current situation, each parent’s home, and interactions with the larger community with each parent.
5. The mental and physical health
This can include the health of both the parents and children involved. If a parent has a disability that interferes with their ability to care for the child, this can be a consideration in deciding parenting time. Likewise, if a child has a disability and one parent is better equipped to provide care, the court may consider this as a factor as well.
6. The ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party
In this factor, the court considers the actions of each parent. Do they genuinely seem to want to foster a healthy relationship between the other parent and the child, or do they seem to be using the child as retribution or to get back at the other party? The court will consider actions such as making disparaging remarks about the other parent, discouraging the child from spending time with the other parent, acknowledging important dates/events for the other parent and child (i.e. birthdays, Mother’s/Father’s day etc).
7. Whether a past pattern of involvement of the parties reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support
In this factor, the Court considers the parties’ ability to get along for the purpose of parenting the child. Often, the parties at one time did work together to parent. The court will look at things like agreed upon extracurricular activities, school activities, etc.
8. The physical proximity of the parties to each other as it relates to the practical considerations of parenting time
This accounts for the practical consideration that a parenting time schedule must consider the distance between the parties and reasonable travel time and expense for both the parents and the children. If one parent lives out of state, it is likely that a 50/50 parenting schedule will not be feasible compared to both parties living in the same city.
9. The ability of each parent to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs
For this factor, the court will again look at the actions of the parties. Does a parent cancel parenting time for their own convenience, does a parent regularly attend school and extracurricular activities? Do they make sure the child’s need are met before seeing to their own?
While these are the factors specified in the statute, the statute makes clear these factors are to be included in the court’s weighing of an appropriate parenting time plan, but the court is to consider all “relevant” factors. If there are additional factors the court finds relevant, it can include those in the factors for its decision. There are also additional considerations when domestic violence or child abuse are at issue in the case as well.
If you have any questions about your current parenting time schedule, contact us to schedule a free, 30-minute consultation.