Those who have children together often assume that they will raise them cooperatively, but that goal isn’t always easy to achieve. Some couples end their romantic relationship while their children are still minors. They will then face significant challenges as they adjust to co-parenting.
Ideally, the adults in a family can work together to negotiate specific terms for sharing parenting time and decision-making authority, as well as financial responsibility for their children. When that does occur, it is still best to set forth such in a stipulation and file it with the Court. However, for a variety of reasons, reaching a mutually agreeable solution without judicial intervention isn’t always possible. When no agreement can be reached, parenting issues could end up litigated in family court. If a Colorado family law judge needs to decide about the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities, it’s important for parents to understand what to expect.
Judges must prioritize a child’s best interests. Colorado state statutes no longer refer to custody but rather parental rights and responsibilities in part to help reframe conversations about parent-child relationships. Instead of focusing on what parents want or believe they should receive due to a sense of entitlement, the focus should always be on what is best for the children.
The best interests of the children will usually include a positive relationship with both adults in the family. Exactly how the family achieves that, however, could be drastically different from one case to the next. Usually, judges will seek to give each parent a reasonable amount of time with the children and a shared say in major decisions related to their health care, religion and education.
Occasionally, judges will limit the parental rights and responsibilities of one parent because they seemingly present a risk to the children. Issues including a documented history of abuse or drug addiction might potentially influence what a judge believes will be in the best interest of the children. Factors including someone’s conduct in court and their pre-existing relationship with the children will strongly influence what a judge eventually decides to do.
Ultimately, seeking legal guidance to learn about how the courts handle the allocation of parental rights and responsibilities can make it easier for people to set realistic, achievable goals when litigating or negotiating parenting issues.