When determining custody (parenting time) in Colorado, the law requires the Court to make a determination based on the child’s best interests. C.R.S. 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 as to parenting time
The Court will assume (unless there is reason to believe otherwise) 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. However, the Court may consider the feasibility of a proposed schedule.
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
The Court will generally take the position that children should not be placed in the middle of a custody battle, and having the child speak to the judge does just that. But, in some cases, a judge or magistrate may consider speaking with a child (this usually takes a motion asking for the judge to speak with the child). However, ascertaining 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. Interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents, siblings, or any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests
The Court will examine how the child interacts with each parent, and may also include siblings, parents’ significant others or other extended family members.
4. The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community
This becomes especially important if one parent is proposing a change to any of these items. The court can consider factors such as extracurricular activities, activities available at the child’s current school vs. a new school, and the home the child is used to.
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
This can include the health of both the parents and children involved. If a parent has a disability that interferes with his/her 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; 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 domestic violence, the parent’s protective actions shall not be considered with respect to this factor
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.