Child custody is one of the most difficult issues a parent faces during divorce. A child custody agreement or, as Colorado law refers to it, a “Colorado Parenting Plan,” determines to what extent each parent is able to raise his or her children and make decisions regarding their upbringing. For many parents, the child custody proceedings are among the most crucial of all those that occur during a divorce.
The attorneys at Johnson Law Group, LLC, are dedicated to protecting your rights to raise your child in a healthy, thriving environment. Our Denver child custody visitation attorneys represent parents in Colorado in all aspects of child custody and visitation, including:
• Primary and joint custody arrangements • Visitation rights • Grandparent visitation • Modification of custody and visitation orders • Enforcement of orders • Decisions related to religion, education, and upbringing of the child
While we strive to secure and uphold the rights of our clients, we understand that, at the end of the day, custody disputes really boil down to what is best for the child. Our lawyers prioritize the emotional and physical needs of children above all else, and we will use both the law and the facts surrounding your case to secure an outcome that is best for all parties involved.
LEGAL CHILD CUSTODY DECISION-MAKING vs. PHYSICAL CUSTODY vs. VISITATION
When you first meet with a lawyer regarding child custody, one of the first things he or she will want to know is what your goals are for the process. More specifically, the attorney will want to know, do you want physical custody of your children, legal decision-making responsibility or both?
Colorado is one of many states that has done away with the blanket term “custody.” Today, parental rights fall into two distinct categories, the first being “decision-making” and the second being “residential parental responsibilities.” Parents may share both responsibilities, or the courts may determine that one parent is more capable of handling certain responsibilities more than the other.
DECISION-MAKING OR LEGAL CUSTODY
Decision-making rights refer to the parental right of making major decisions regarding the child's upbringing. Those include decisions pertaining to schooling, religion, extracurricular activities, medical care, etc. When one parent has sole decision-making responsibilities, he or she can make these major decisions without the other parent’s consent.
It is not uncommon for the Colorado courts to split legal custodial rights, though. When the courts decide that both parents have the maturity and capacity to act in their children’s best interests despite their feelings toward one another, it may grant equal decision-making rights to both parties. In these situations, parents must make decisions jointly, meaning they must consult with each other and agree on major life decisions before following through with them.
Sometimes, the courts will divide the decision-making for the children. This is not the same as distributing them equally. In a case of division, one parent may be responsible for making major decisions regarding schooling and religion, while the other will make determinations regarding things such as sports and medical care.
When deciding which parent(s) will assume decision-making responsibilities, the courts will initially operate under the assumption that both parties are capable of taking them on. However, if either party presents evidence suggesting otherwise, the courts must then consider additional factors. Factors that may sway a judge’s decision include the following:
• Each parent’s level of involvement with the children • The couple’s ability to cooperate and mutually make decisions regarding the children • Whether one or both parents is guilty of child or spousal abuse
The court’s legal custody determination may, but does not always, influence its physical custody determination.
THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD - STANDARD & MEDIATION
Colorado, like the overwhelming majority of states these days, uses the best interests of the child as the basis of any sound Colorado Parenting Plan. While several factors may affect the court’s decision, Colorado law says that it is in the best interests of the child to maintain a close relationship and continued contact with both parents. Of course, this standard may not apply in all cases, but if it does in yours, the courts will encourage you and the other party to cooperate and work together to arrive at a custody agreement with which you are both satisfied. The best way to do this, the courts agree, is through mediation.
Through the structured process of mediation, couples can often set aside hostility and agree on key decisions affecting their children. Mediation can be a highly effective tool for parents to preserve their children’s well-being and the stability of their lives during the turbulent process of divorce. Mediation takes some of the stress out of child custody conflicts and puts important child-rearing decisions in the hands of the parents rather than the court. Our Denver child custody visitation attorneys can meticulously develop mediation strategies that carefully guide the negotiating process toward a healthy resolution. The benefits of mediation are as follows:
• Parents have more control over the outcome of the case, which often leads to more satisfactory resolutions. • When parties are willing to work together, they can reach an agreement quicker than if they had gone the litigation route, a benefit that results in huge cost savings. • Mediators act as facilitators through otherwise contentious discussions and provide support to both parties.
The biggest benefit of mediation, however, is its ability to help separated parents preserve their relationships. When parents cooperate in devising a shared parenting plan, there is a greater likelihood that they will show that same level of cooperation and respect toward one another in the years to come, which will only benefit the child.
SKILLED LITIGATION IN FAMILY COURT
In some cases, litigation is necessary to protect a child’s best interests. When one parent refuses to compromise or expresses hostility toward the other parent, negotiations fail. Sometimes a parent may even pose a danger to the child’s well-being. In these cases, litigation is the most appropriate forum for establishing parental rights. Our Denver child custody visitation attorneys often discourage litigation for the following reasons:
• A judge, who may or may not know you, your child or your circumstances, will be responsible for deciding what is in your child’s best interests. • You will have little to no control over the outcome of your case. • You do not have peace of mind that the judge will give your plan the time and consideration it deserves before finalizing it.
Our firm’s methodical approach to litigation enables you to feel confident that your children are protected and that your parental rights are secure. Though we understand that litigation — especially when it involves your children — can be nerve-wracking, we will keep you informed every step of the way and do our best to instill in you the confidence you need during these trying times.
CONTACT EXPERIENCED AND REPUTABLE FAMILY LAW ATTORNEYS IN DENVER, CO
Johnson Law Group, LLC, are the child custody dispute attorneys in Denver, CO, that will help resolve those difficult issues that are vital to your child’s future when going through a divorce. Call Johnson Law Group, LLC, at 720-452-2540 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with a family law attorney in Denver, CO.
Our experience, dedication to Colorado families, and our success in each case we represent sets us apart from the competition. We are passionate about family and estate law. Our highly-qualified team will work diligently to achieve the best possible results in your case.
Johnson Law Group is located in Denver, CO and serves clients in and around Englewood, Denver, Aurora, Littleton, Wheat Ridge, Adams County, Arapahoe County and Denver County.
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