Choosing the “Best Interests of the Child”
Recent changes to Colorado law have largely replaced the word “custody” with “parental responsibility” – including decision-making authority - and “parenting time,” including the child’s living arrangements. 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.
In determining the best interests of the child for purposes of allocating parenting time and parental responsibility, a judge will consider numerous factors, including:
- The wishes of the parents;
- The wishes of the child;
- The child’s interactions and relationships with the parents, brothers, sisters and others important to the child;
- The child's adjustment to home, school, and community;
- The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
- The ability of the parents to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other parent;
- Whether the past pattern of parental involvement with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support;
- The physical distance between the parents;
- Whether one of the parents has been a perpetrator of child abuse, child neglect, or spouse abuse;
- The ability of each parent to place the needs of the child ahead of his/her own needs
- Other relevant factors
A conviction for a drug offense can be relevant to the evaluation of a number of these factors. It can indicate that the parent has a substance abuse problem that calls into question their ability to provide for child’s needs or keep them in a safe environment. This is especially true if the conviction occurred after the child was born or if it is a second or subsequent conviction.
A judge evaluating a prior drug crime conviction may order the parent to submit to regular drug testing or treatment as a condition to their parenting time and decision-making responsibilities. Failing to abide by any such requirements could threaten the rights of the parent to have any say in the child’s upbringing, or a judge could impose limitations on parenting time, such as requiring supervision during all visits.
If a parent is convicted of a drug crime after the entry of a final divorce decree, a judge may revisit and modify the existing parenting arrangements if it would be in the child’s best interests.
Whether you are a parent struggling with substance abuse issues or your former spouse has such problems, regardless of whether any criminal charges are involved, you should seek help as soon as you can. A child custody lawyer in Colorado Springs can work with you to make sure that your children are safe and that your rights as a parent are protected.