Child Custody / Parenting Time
In every Colorado divorce, legal separation, annulment, or paternity case involving children, Colorado courts will consider the "best interests of the child" to determine Colorado child custody and visitation (the legal term in Colorado is "parenting rights and responsibilities"). On paper, Colorado family law is gender-neutral between the mother and father. That means that. under Colorado child custody laws, each parent theoretically has an equal opportunity of obtaining primary residential responsibility.
The reality of parenting time in Colorado is that mothers still tend to win more "custody battles" than fathers, but the playing field is more equal now than ever before. And the advantages mothers still have are really more a factor that they are more likely to have stayed at home or worked fewer hours than fathers. Black & Graham has obtained primary parental responsibility for fathers - generally in cases where the father fulfilled that role instead of the mother. The younger the children are, the more likely it is that the children will spend a majority of the time with one parent, rather than equally.
Best Interests of the Child
As a child gets older, he/she has more input into which parent exercises child custody in Colorado. However, the myth that a child over 12 decides which parent has custody in Colorado is just that - a myth. No child has an absolute say, though any parent with teenagers knows that they can be unmanageable if they do not live with the parent they choose.
Children are not property, and the standard is the best interests of the children, not the parents. Previously, most experts believed that it was in the best interests of children to have the stability of residing with one parent most of the time, and seeing the other parent less frequently. However, Colorado divorce courts are increasingly moving towards equal parenting time for each parent, particularly when children are of school age.
"Typical" Parenting Schedules
If parents live further apart, such as 1-4 hours away from each other, it would not be in the children's best interests to divide parenting equally (as an example, imagine the commute the child would have from a parent who lives in Denver going to a school in Colorado Springs). In this situation, the absent parent typically would have parenting every other weekend, a 2-4 week block of time in the summer, then divide the other vacations and major holidays equally. Typically, the parents divide the physical burden of driving the children between their residences equally.
When parents live in different states or countries, routine weekend parenting is generally not practicable, so the absent parent necessarily sees the child much less. Typically, that parent would have a larger block of the summer (most commonly half to two-thirds), then alternate spring, Thanksgiving, and winter/Christmas breaks. The parents would divide the costs of flying the children proportional to their incomes.
Bear in mind that the duration of the breaks may further be limited by the age of the children - since younger may develop more attachment to one parent, the parenting time may be shorter with preschool children.
Denver, Colorado Mediation Resources: Child Custody, Parenting Plans and Family Information. Consider mediation as an alternative to litigation, and the site has excellent information on parenting arrangements, including suggested parenting time schedules.
Connecting With Your Kids. An extremely detailed (243 pages, including forms) booklet highlighting the various laws and factors which affect parenting time, including sample plans, etc.
Custodysource.com. National child custody resource, with a very eclectic organization.
Phone: 719-328-1616 Fax: 719-630-8495