Where will I live?
When will I see you?
Which school am I going to go to?
What happens to me?
Children caught up in their parents’ divorce have a lot of questions. Parents will have to work together to provide answers or a judge could provide them instead. Issues involving child custody and visitation can be some of the thorniest and most emotionally taxing in a divorce. The practical realities and personal challenges of raising a child in two households require care, patience, and focus to ensure that the needs and well-being of the child always come first. As a Colorado Springs divorce and family law attorney, it is my goal to help clients reach custody arrangements which accomplish exactly that.
Parental Responsibility v. Custody
While we often speak of “custody” when discussing where a child will live and who will have authority over what decisions involving the child, Colorado law no longer uses the term “custody.” Rather, parents in a divorce must allocate “parental responsibility” – including decision-making authority and “parenting time” - between themselves. If parents can’t reach a resolution of these issues on their own, a judge will allocate parental responsibilities and parenting time based on what he or she deems to be in the best interests of the child.
Divorcing parents and their attorneys will attempt to reach agreement on all of the issues and choices that are involved in raising a child. These agreements will be put into a detailed parenting plan that is designed to bring clarity and minimize the potential for conflict. I work with parents to help them craft thorough plans that are fair and that keep the focus on maintaining positive relationships not only between the parents and the child but between the parents themselves to the extent practicable.
In developing a plan, the following issues should be thoroughly addressed:
- allocation of significant decision-making responsibilities, including religion, education, and healthcare; this may involve allocating these decisions to one parent or sharing them between the two;
- provisions for the child's living arrangements and for each parent's parenting time, including a schedule that designates in which parent's home the child will reside on given days;
- each parent's right of access to the child’s important records, including medical, dental, psychological, and child care records, as well as school and extracurricular records, reports, and schedules;
- a designation of the parent who will be denominated as the parent with the majority of parenting time (formerly known as the “custodial parent”);
- provisions requiring each parent to notify the other of emergencies, health care, travel plans, or other significant child-related issues;
- transportation arrangements between the parents;
- provisions for communications, including electronic communications, with the child during the other parent's parenting time;
- provisions for resolving issues arising from a parent's future relocation;
- provisions for future modifications of the parenting plan, if specified events occur.
Building A Bright Future for You and Your Children
Of course, in some divorces, parents are unable to reach agreement on some or all of the issues regarding their child. Other times, there are concerns about the fitness or ability of one parent to be responsible for the child’s safety and well-being. In those circumstances, a court will make the determination as to any contested issues.
When an agreement can’t be reached, I forcefully advocate on behalf of my clients and their children to put them in the best position to obtain a favorable outcome from the judge. With preparation, pragmatism, and a thorough understanding of the law and the issues, I am unwavering in my commitment to help build a bright and secure future for each parent and child I have the privilege to represent.