Parenting Time and Decision Making
The term "custody" is no longer used in Colorado. The term "custody" has been replaced with the term "Allocation of Parental Responsibility."
Allocation of Parental Responsibility involves two separate issues: a) Parenting Time; and b) Decision Making.
Parenting Time is the amount of time the children will spend with each parent. For example, parenting time might have the children spending 70% of their time living with one parent and 30% living with the other parent by having the children spend every other weekend. Parenting time will also allocate how vacations and holidays will be spent with each parent.
If the parents cannot agree on parenting time, the court will have to determine the proper parenting time for the children. In determining a proper parenting time, the court will adopt a parenting plan that is in the best interests of the children. Factors that the court will consider when applying the best interest standard include:
- The preferences of the child's parents.
- The preference of the child as to parenting time provided the child is of a maturity level capable of stating an independent preference.
- The nature of the relationships and interaction the child has with each parent, any siblings, and any other person who may have a significant affect on the child's best interests.
- The manner in which the child is acclimated to his home, school, and community.
- The physical and mental health of all parties involved. However, a disability alone cannot be used as a determining factor.
- The ability of each parent to foster and encourage a loving, affectionate, and continuing relationship between the child and the other parent.
- The past patterns of the parents and whether or not the history reflects a system of time commitment, values, and mutual support.
- The proximity of the parents' home to each other as it relates to practical parenting time plans.
- Any evidence that either parent has been a perpetrator of domestic violence or any evidence that either parent has been abusive or neglectful to the child.
- The capability of each parent to place the needs of the child above his or her own needs.
Decision Making involves how decisions affecting the raising of each child will be made. Decisions regarding the raising of each child include, but are not limited to, issues involving medical care, schooling, religion, sports, camp, and other extra-curricular activities.
Decision making also involves whether one parent, or both, will make these important decisions that affect the children. If decision making is allocated to both parents, then usually both parents have to agree in order to make these decisions.
Problems arise when the parents cannot agree on these issues. For example, if the parents have joint decision making, and the parents cannot agree on which school the children should go to, then the court will have to decide based on the best interests of the children.
In determining whether one or both parents will be allowed to make decisions regarding the raising of the children, the court will use factors that are similar to the factors set forth above regarding parenting time. Plus, the court will also look at:
- The ability of the parties to cooperate and make decisions jointly;
- Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support that would indicate an ability as mutual decision makers to provide a positive and nourishing relationship with the child; and
- Whether an allocation of mutual decision-making responsibility on any one or a number of issues will promote more frequent or continuing contact between the child and each of the parties.
However, when you boil down all of the factors, it all comes down to what is in the best interests of the children.