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What Role Does “Best Interest of the Child” Play in Colorado Custody Cases?

In all cases, courts make decisions about parental decision-making and parenting time based on the best interest of the child, but what does that really mean?

First and foremost, Colorado courts make every effort to ensure that a child gets time with both parents, provided that this can be done safely for the child. The goal is for parents share the rights and responsibilities associated with the child’s care jointly, so love, affection, and contact are encouraged by both parents. However, time with one of the child’s parents may not be safe and co-parenting is not always possible.

To determine the parenting time schedule that is in the child’s best interests, the court considers the wishes of the parents, the wishes of the child, the interaction between the child and the parent, the child’s connection to home, school, and community, the mental and physical health of the child and parents, whether domestic violence is a factor, whether previous time spent together was healthy, whether physical proximity is an issue, and whether the parents are capable of placing the needs of the child above his or her own.

How are Child Abuse or Child Neglect Allegations Handled in Custody Cases?

Child abuse or neglect allegations are one of the primary concerns of the court when determining the amount of time a child should spend with a parent. According to C.R.S. § 14-10-124(1.5):

(d) When the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that one of the parties has committed child abuse or neglect or domestic violence, the court shall consider, as the primary concern, the safety and well-being of the child and the abused party.

(e) When the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that one of the parties has committed child abuse or neglect or domestic violence, in formulating or approving a parenting plan, the court shall consider conditions on parenting time that ensure the safety of the child and of the abused party. In addition to any provisions set forth in subsection (7) of this section that are appropriate, the parenting plan in these cases may include, but is not limited to, the following provisions:

(I) An order limiting contact between the parties to contact that the court deems is safe and that minimizes unnecessary communication between the parties;

(II) An order that requires the exchange of the child for parenting time to occur in a protected setting determined by the court;

(III) An order for supervised parenting time;

(IV) An order restricting overnight parenting time;

(V) An order that restricts the party who has committed domestic violence or child abuse or neglect from possessing or consuming alcohol or controlled substances during parenting time or for twenty-four hours prior to the commencement of parenting time;

(VI) An order directing that the address of the child or of any party remain confidential; and

(VII) An order that imposes any other condition on one or more parties that the court determines is necessary to protect the child, another party, or any other family or household member of a party.

(f) When the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that one of the parties has committed domestic violence, the court may order the party to submit to a domestic violence evaluation. If the court determines, based upon the results of the evaluation, that treatment is appropriate, the court may order the party to participate in domestic violence treatment. At any time, the court may require a subsequent evaluation to determine whether additional treatment is necessary. If the court awards parenting time to a party who has been ordered to participate in domestic violence treatment, the court may order the party to obtain a report from the treatment provider concerning the party's progress in treatment and addressing any ongoing safety concerns regarding the party's parenting time. The court may order the party who has committed domestic violence to pay the costs of the domestic violence evaluations and treatment.

If you are involved in a custody battle and concerned about your child’s well-being, we can help. Contact Montgomery Little & Soran, P.C. at 303-773-8100.

 

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