Douglas County Child Custody Attorney
The issue of who gets custody of the kids can be a painful aspect of divorce in Colorado and elsewhere. In the not-too-distant past, the courts favored giving custody to the mother. However, times have changed, and now courts look at what’s in the best interest of the child when determining a custody schedule. Our diligent and experienced Douglas County child custody attorneys can help Colorado residents make persuasive arguments to the court about the custody arrangement that would be in the best interest of your children.
What Is the Purpose of a Child Custody Order?
It is often not in the child’s – or either parent’s – best interests to trust an oral custody agreement. An informal child custody agreement could jeopardize the safety of the child or the rights of a parent. Without an official custody order, one parent will have no way to hold the other parent responsible for his or her end of the agreement. A parent will have no legal repercussions available if the ex-spouse takes his or her children out of state, for example, or decides to appear unannounced to take the kids for the weekend.
A child custody order comes from the courts in Colorado. It is an official, enforceable legal order. If necessary, law enforcement can intervene to require a parent to obey a child custody order. Getting an official custody order will give you and your child consistency. This is especially important for the well-being and healthy development of your child. Knowing which parent your child will spend his or her time with and when can provide a critical measure of stability during an already difficult time of divorce. It can also protect you and your child’s legal rights.
Factors Considered in Determining Child Custody
Judges weigh a variety of factors when making any determination about child custody. Among these factors are the parents’ wishes, the child’s wishes, the way each parent interacts with the child, the health (both physical and mental) of the parties, the child’s adjustment to his environment including school and community, past relationship of the parties, whether spousal or child abuse is at issue, and the geographic closeness of the parents’ residences. Colorado courts will not award custody to a parent who presents an emotional or physical danger to a child.
There is no set age at which a child’s wishes are dispositive on the issue of custody. Courts consider a child’s maturity and ability to express a reasonable and independent opinion in determining whether to grant the child’s preference as to parenting schedules.
Also of concern to the courts is each parent’s ability to put their children’s needs ahead of their own needs. This means, among other things, encouraging your child’s relationship with his or her other parent. Unless abuse is an element in their relationship, most contemporary studies show that children who have two parents who care for them are more likely to develop character and strength than those that have only one.
It is important to note that child support, even failure to pay child support, is an independent issue from a parent’s right to see his or her child. Encouraging your child in his or her relationship with the other parent is better for purposes of presenting your case to a judge and more importantly, it’s better for your child.
Equal Parenting Time in Colorado
Although it is preferred, equal parenting time is not automatically assured. This is one reason it’s important to retain a Douglas County child custody lawyer with substantial experience with these cases.
There are number of situations in which it may be more difficult to obtain equal parenting time. For example, if one parent lives several hours away from the other, it would be difficult to divide time equally and ensure the children get to go to school on a stable schedule. In this case, it may be preferable to give custody to one parent and allow the other parent weekend and holiday visitations.
Similarly, if your children are very young and have an intense attachment to a parent who stays at home to care for them, it may be better for the children to have more parenting time with the stay at home parent until they get older. As your children grow up and develop different needs, there may be good reason to request the court to modify the child custody arrangement. Our attorneys can help you gather evidence and ask for those modifications.
Who Is the Primary Caretaker?
The primary caretaker of a child in a Douglas County divorce case is the parent who was responsible for the greater portion of childcare and related responsibilities during the marriage. It will be up to the parent to prove he or she was the primary caretaker during the marriage using evidence such as eyewitnesses or legal documents. It is important for the courts to identify the primary caretaker, if there is one, before creating a custody arrangement.
If safe for the child, the courts in Colorado will typically award primary custody to the primary caretaker. Psychologists emphasize the importance of the emotional bond between a child and his or her primary caretaker to carry the child through the many stages of development. The courts will also analyze many other factors, however, before making a child custody decision. The main factor will be the child’s best interests.
How Does the Court Determine Who Is the Primary Caretaker?
Identifying the primary caretaker during a divorce case takes assessing each parent’s contribution to childcare during the marriage. The courts will look at whether each parent fulfilled duties related to caretaking, such as feeding, bathing, grooming and dressing the child, as well as taking care of the child’s education, health care, extracurricular activities and other needs. The courts will focus on the direct caretaking responsibilities of a parent when determining the primary caretaker, including day-to-day tasks.
When Can a Child Custody Arrangement Be Modified?
If you and your spouse created your child custody arrangement and parenting plan together, you can work with your co-parent any time to try to modify your plan. You may get together, either alone or with assistance from a mediator, to discuss the new plan you wish to initiate. If you can agree on a modified plan, the courts will generally sign off on the changes to make them official. You will need to go through a more intense legal process for child custody modification if the courts assigned your order in Colorado, however.
In general, it is not possible to modify a court-ordered child custody arrangement unless you or your spouse’s situation has changed substantially since the date the judge gave the order. A judge-issued custody agreement is permanent until the courts accept a new plan or modification. You may only request a custody modification under qualifying circumstances, such as if one parent is moving, you believe the child is not safe, or if there has been a change in work schedule or family situation. Submit a modification request with supporting evidence to your county’s family court. Then, attend a trial with help from your lawyer to prove the need for custody modification.
Dedicated Child Custody Lawyers in Douglas County
The attorneys at Plog & Stein, P.C. are meticulous, but efficient when working up a case. You maintain a better negotiating position by being ready to go to trial, so we prepare to fight vigorously for the best interests of your family in a courtroom. However, we do try to resolve your case as favorably as possible through other means, such as mediation or negotiated settlement. Our attorneys are skilled negotiators with an impressive track record.
Contact our experienced Douglas County child custody attorneys at Plog & Stein, P.C. by phone at (303) 781-0322, or via our online form. Our office provides personal service, as well as logically sound and dedicated representation. We know the well being of your family is of vital importance to you, and we work hard to seek the outcome your family deserves.