Denver Divorce and Real Estate Lawyer Blog. (Vol 1.17)
By Craig Franklin Chambers Esq. The Littleton Lawyer.
As a Littleton, Lakewood, Highlands Ranch and Denver real estate, family law and divorce attorney, I often handle disputes over child custody, parenting time, and child visitation issues. Most of the expense in a Colorado divorce or parenting time proceeding occur when the parents can't agree over what's best for the children of the marriage or the relationship.
Issues of common conflict include where the child primarily resides, what parenting time or child visitation the other parent has with the child, where the child goes to school, and who decides major medical, educational, and religious issues for the children.
The factors for determining who the child lives with, and what kind of parenting time the non-residential parent receives are set forth in three statutes, C.R.S. 14-10-124, C.R.S. 14-10-129, and C.R.S. 14-10-131. In addition, there are many cases interpreting these statutes to aid the court in custody decisions. The underlying legal principle in determining parenting time and visitation is what's in the best interest of the child.
This the legal standard, however, the proceeding is an equitable proceeding .The judge will apply the legal factors in the statutes and his own idea of fairness and personal experience to the facts of the case in determining child custody issues.
The legal standard is applied in the context of the public policy of Colorado to foster and encourage the relationship with both parents. The bottom line is that custody determines usually centers--not on the needs or desires of the parents--but on the stability of the child.
The mistake I see many people make is that they assume that what they believe is in the child's best interest is the legal standard for parenting time. Therefore, they go to court and argue that one parent is a better parent because he has a nicer house, has a cleaner criminal record, lives in a better or more expensive area, or has a new spouse who is a school teacher. You could be a financially successful individual and a distant, uninvolved parent. You can be a financially unsuccessful parent and be an excellent, hands-on parent.
Angry parents make traps for the other parent to prove their case. They devise set-ups, refuse to cooperate with the other parent, and place the child in the middle of the conflict in order to vindicate their position.
They make false police allegations, frivolously call Social Services, and exaggerate their concerns to experts and in court. Instead of properly advising their clients, many divorce, family law, and child custody lawyers contribute to the conflict, litigating petty issues in hopes of simply running up the attorney fees.
The court wishes to craft a plan for a child who now resides in two households and to create a warm, safe, nurturing environment for the child. The best witnesses in these cases are often third party witnesses such as teachers, counselors, and doctors who have no interest in the outcome and who truly interested in the welfare of the child.
Getting along with the other parent, and putting aside feelings of pettiness, spite, guilt and anger, is perhaps the hardest step in these cases. Embarrassing or denigrating your ex with childish antics usually harms rather than helps your case. More importantly, these antics harm the child.
The better parent from the court's point of view is usually the one who remains reasonable and cooperative and acts like an adult.
Parents are what parents are. What the court hopes for is evidence that the parents can overcome their personal differences and reinforce the child and the other parent in a supportive and stable environment.
This attitude benefits both you and the child in the long run. No matter how you feel about your ex-spouse you share the responsibility of raising the child you created. The responsibility legally extends to the age of 19, but practically extends until the child is grown and throughout your life.
Respecting and supporting the other party as a parent and stepping back and letting them be a parent, as well as involving them in the child's life is what the courts often look for making custody determinations, determining child visitation and parenting time.