Article: Responsibilities of parents are the focus of Colorado custody hearings

In Colorado, judges consider the caregiving abilities of the parents before assigning parenting time and decision making responsibilities.

Colorado Public Radio recently reported that the number of divorces in 2013 was the highest ever at 21,483, according to data provided by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. When these divorces involve children, the primary focus of the proceedings is often about who gets to spend the most time with the child and make the major decisions. Colorado judges make these determinations based on what is in the best interests of the child.

Relationships determine responsibilities

According to the Colorado Foundation for Families and Children, Colorado legislators drafted language that emphasizes ongoing parental responsibilities and encourages parents to see themselves as caregivers. The intent is to help parents pay more attention to their relationships with their child rather than fighting over the type of child custody arrangement they are awarded in the court order.

The courts take the best interests of the child very seriously, according to the Colorado Bar. A primary factor considered when designating the responsibilities of each parent include how well they are able to share and encourage love, affection and contact with the child. The relationship the child has with each parent and the ability of the parents to cooperate are aspects of this consideration. Often, a qualified mental health professional is called on to perform a professional evaluation and provide a recommendation to the court.

In the past, mothers were more likely to be awarded more parenting time and decision making authority. However, Colorado courts show no gender bias when determining which parent is better able to provide for the child's emotional, physical and mental needs. Although the wishes of the child are considered, they are not a deciding factor, either.

Experts say equal parenting time is better for children

Recent research cited in Time magazine indicates that children exhibit less signs of stress when they spend a balanced amount of time with each parent. In the past, experts believed that children experienced more stress from the apparent lack of stability caused by the frequent transitions between residences. However, researchers have discovered that the relationships developed with each parent are stronger and children are healthier when they are not assigned to a single primary residence.

In order to facilitate this level of co-parenting, each of the parents has to be committed to the child enough to ignore the animosity they may have from the separation. While it may be common to associate hiring a divorce attorney with a legal battle, having legal representation often assists parents in focusing on the issues and coming to the most satisfactory agreement for everyone.