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Making it over the child custody mountain in Colorado

As one life divides into two, you must make many tough decisions. For example, the division of all of your marital possessions often becomes a difficult process. While emotions may run high, in the end it's only money and material goods. They may be valuable, and you may be sentimental about some of it, but you move forward.

For parents, a far more difficult process may be waiting. Children are not assets for valuation and division; they are your most priceless treasures. If you are concerned about what will happen to your kids now that your marriage is ending, the following information may be of help.

Understanding the types of custody

There are two types of custody in Colorado: legal and physical. A parent with legal custody of a child has a right to make decisions about the child's general welfare. Examples include:

  • Healthcare/medical decisions
  • Education
  • Religious upbringing

Physical custody refers to which parent the child lives with post-divorce. 

It is important to know that in Colorado, the umbrella term "child custody" that refers to both legal and physical custody is largely out of use. Since 1999, the preferred term is "parental responsibilities."

With either type of custody, a parent may be granted sole or joint custody. Joint custody is the most common arrangement these days. When parents share legal custody, both parties have a say about the major issues of childrearing.

Joint physical custody is common, though an even split seldom works well for any family. Most often, the child or children live predominantly with one parent. The children might stay with the other parent on scheduled days. Weekend stays are the most common, as they cause the least disruption to routines. 

Rarely will a judge grant sole custody of a child, either physically or legally. The courts reserve sole custody for situations wherein the child's physical or emotional wellbeing may be at risk. Common examples include abuse directed at the other spouse or the child, and you must provide the court with considerable evidence such abuse occurred.

Deciding who the child will live with, and who has access

If the parents of the child cannot come to an agreement on this matter, a judge will issue a ruling. The court bases its ruling entirely on the best interests of the child. Factors considered may include the following: 

  • The parents' wishes
  • The child's wishes, if the child is of sufficient maturity to make a rational decision
  • Evident emotional bonds
  • Potential difficulties for the child adjusting to a new school/neighborhood

Gender is not a consideration in a custody case; mothers do not receive automatic preference over fathers. Additionally, grandparents sometimes receive an award of visitation rights, though the court is limited in what it can do in this area.

Go in prepared to fight for your rights

Although a judge will decide impartially what he or she believes is best for your child, no one knows what that is better than you do. Do not be afraid to stand up for what you think is best, and be prepared to present supporting evidence. 

For the best chance at coming away with the ruling you want, consider finding out what an attorney can do for you. Investing in professional assistance could pay off with priceless results.

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