If you have children and you’re in the midst of a divorce, you know that child custody can be one of the more contentious aspects between soon-to-be-ex-spouses. You’ve also likely heard the phrase “best interest of the child.” Best interest refers to cases involving the determination of child custody and the factors a court will consider to reach the most positive outcome for the children involved.
Couples are encouraged to come to an agreement about child custody and how they’ll share parenting time on their own, but if they are not able to agree, a court will make a decision on their behalf. The welfare of a child will be the main priority and a judge will look at how the decision will benefit the child the most.
Factors in a decision regarding parental responsibilities
If a court is called upon to make a custody decision, the judge has wide discretion to reach a fair and reasonable resolution. However, when making the decision for custody, the following nine factors are what a judge in Colorado will consider:
- The wishes of the parents.
- The wishes of the child (if the child is mature enough to choose).
- The relationship of the child with the parents and/or siblings.
- The child’s adjustment to school, home and the community.
- The physical and mental health of the parents.
- The ability of each parent to foster and encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent.
- Whether past parent involvement with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment and mutual support.
- The proximity between the parent’s homes.
- The ability of each parent to place the needs of the child over their own.
Factors in parental decision-making responsibilities
Furthermore, Colorado law specifies three additional factors when allocating parental decision-making responsibilities. So, depending on what the judge finds and what’s in the best interest of the child, either one parent will be responsible for the decisions regarding the children, or both parents can share joint decision-making responsibilities if there’s credible evidence that they can effectively work together.
To decide who takes on the parental decision making, a judge will consider:
- The willingness of the parents to work cooperatively on joint decisions.
- The past pattern of parental involvement with the child and whether it indicates an ability as mutual decision makers to provide a positive and nurturing relationship with the child.
- Whether joint decision making on some or all of the issues will promote more frequent contact between the child and each parent.
One factor isn’t weighted more than another, however, past behavior and the willingness of parents to work together for the good of the child will influence the decision.
In child custody decisions, there is no “one” answer as each case is individual with its own set of factors and circumstances. But to make a decision that’s in the best interest of a child, a court will work to promote the well-being, health and safety of the child first and foremost.