Deciding “who gets the kids” in a Colorado divorce

For any Colorado couple with minor children, the possibility of divorce raises a number of important questions. Perhaps the most important question is determining the allocation of parental responsibilities following the divorce. Parental responsibilities may strike the ear as a bit unfamiliar because in 1999, the Colorado legislature abolished the familiar term “child custody” and substituted “parental responsibilities.” Despite the change in legal terminology, the questions remain the same: which parent will have physical custody of the children and which parent will have the legal right to make decisions concerning the child’s health care, living arrangements and education.

Like most states, Colorado uses the overriding standard of “best interests of the child” to resolve any dispute between the divorcing parents about any of these issues. The Colorado legislature has enumerated a number of factors that may be considered by the judge in deciding what outcome will serve the best interests of the child. These factors include:

  • The wishes of the child if the child is old enough to express a reasonable preference
  • The mental and physical health of each parent
  • Whether the child has any special needs
  • Religion and other cultural considerations
  • The ability of each parent to provide a stable home environment
  • How the child will adjust to a new school or community
  • Whether domestic violence has occurred in the home
  • Whether either parent abuses drugs or alcohol

The court may look at all or any of these factors in reaching a decision. Most judges will attempt to reach a holistic decision that incorporates all of the pertinent factors bearing on the best interests of the child.

Any parent considering a divorce may wish to contact an experienced divorce attorney for a review of the factors that may affect the court’s allocation of parental responsibilities. A knowledgeable attorney may be able to provide a helpful analysis of the factors that will affect this decision and help the parent understand what to expect during the divorce process.