Child custody and visitation rights are often the most emotional and difficult issues for parents going through divorce. In Colorado, the legislature some years ago adopted the terms "parenting responsibilities" to encompass all the duties parents owe their children, and the term "parenting time" to refer to how much time the child spends with each parent.
In awarding parenting time, the court always looks to the best interests of the child. In determining the child's best interests in a particular case, the court considers a number of factors identified by the legislature. These include the wishes of the parents, and the wishes of the child if the child is mature enough to express them independently. The court also considers the parents' and the child's mental and physical health, and how the child is adjusting to his or her home, school and community.
In addition to the child's best interests, the court must consider practical issues in determining parenting time. If one parent's work schedule limits the amount of time they can spend with the child, the court will likely take that into account. Similarly, if the parents live far apart and transportation is an issue, that may influence the court's parenting time decision.
In addition to parenting time, the court will give one or both parents the responsibility to make decisions in regards to the child's health, education and upbringing. This responsibility is referred to as legal custody. Often the court will award joint legal custody. This does not necessarily mean the parents will get equal parenting time, however.
Reaching agreement on parenting time can be difficult, but it can be done if both parents put their differences aside and consider the child's interests first. An experienced Colorado family law attorney can help a parent negotiate a parenting plan that works for all concerned.
Source: Courts.state.co.us, "Connecting with Your Kids: Important Information on Parenting Time in Colorado," accessed Jan. 19, 2015