Best Interests of the Child; Colorado Child Custody Determinations

The text of the law on the best interests of the child appears below; these are the factors a court considers when determining where a child resides, and which parent maintains “custody’ as that term was previously used.

 

14-10-124. Best interests of child

(1) Legislative declaration. The general assembly finds and declares that it is in the best interest of all parties to encourage frequent and continuing contact between each parent and the minor children of the marriage after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage. In order to effectuate this goal, the general assembly urges parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child-rearing and to encourage the love, affection, and contact between the children and the parents.

(1.3) Definitions. For purposes of this section and section 14-10-129 (2) (c), unless the context otherwise requires:

(a) “Domestic violence” means an act of violence or a threatened act of violence upon a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship, and may include any act or threatened act against a person or against property, including an animal, when used as a method of coercion, control, punishment, intimidation, or revenge directed against a person with whom the actor is or has been involved in an intimate relationship.

(b) “Intimate relationship” means a relationship between spouses, former spouses, past or present unmarried couples, or persons who are both parents of the same child regardless of whether the persons have been married or have lived together at any time.

(1.5) Allocation of parental responsibilities. The court shall determine the allocation of parental responsibilities, including parenting time and decision-making responsibilities, in accordance with the best interests of the child giving paramount consideration to the physical, mental, and emotional conditions and needs of the child as follows:

(a) Determination of parenting time. The court, upon the motion of either party or upon its own motion, may make provisions for parenting time that the court finds are in the child’s best interests unless the court finds, after a hearing, that parenting time by the party would endanger the child’s physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development. In determining the best interests of the child for purposes of parenting time, the court shall consider all relevant factors, including:

(I) The wishes of the child’s parents as to parenting time;

(II) The wishes of the child if he or she is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to the parenting time schedule;

(III) The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents, his or her siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child’s best interests;

(IV) The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;

(V) The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability alone shall not be a basis to deny or restrict parenting time;

(VI) The ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party;

(VII) Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support;

(VIII) The physical proximity of the parties to each other as this relates to the practical considerations of parenting time;

(IX) Whether one of the parties has been a perpetrator of child abuse or neglect under section 18-6-401, C.R.S., or under the law of any state, which factor shall be supported by credible evidence;

(X) Whether one of the parties has been a perpetrator of domestic violence, which factor shall be supported by a preponderance of the evidence;

(XI) The ability of each party to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs.

(b) Allocation of decision-making responsibility. The court, upon the motion of either party or its own motion, shall allocate the decision-making responsibilities between the parties based upon the best interests of the child. In determining decision-making responsibility, the court may allocate the decision-making responsibility with respect to each issue affecting the child mutually between both parties or individually to one or the other party or any combination thereof. In determining the best interests of the child for purposes of allocating decision-making responsibilities, the court shall consider, in addition to the factors set forth in paragraph (a) of this subsection (1.5), all relevant factors including:

(I) Credible evidence of the ability of the parties to cooperate and to make decisions jointly;

(II) Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support that would indicate an ability as mutual decision makers to provide a positive and nourishing relationship with the child;

(III) Whether an allocation of mutual decision-making responsibility on any one or a number of issues will promote more frequent or continuing contact between the child and each of the parties;

(IV) Whether one of the parties has been a perpetrator of child abuse or neglect under section 18-6-401, C.R.S., or under the law of any state, which factor shall be supported by credible evidence. If the court makes a finding of fact that one of the parties has been a perpetrator of child abuse or neglect, then it shall not be in the best interests of the child to allocate mutual decision-making with respect to any issue over the objection of the other party or the legal representative of the child.

(V) Whether one of the parties has been a perpetrator of domestic violence, which factor shall be supported by a preponderance of the evidence. If the court makes a finding of fact that one of the parties has been a perpetrator of domestic violence, then it shall not be in the best interests of the child to allocate mutual decision-making responsibility over the objection of the other party or the legal representative of the child, unless the court finds that the parties are able to make shared decisions about their children without physical confrontation and in a place and manner that is not a danger to the abused party or the child.

(2) The court shall not consider conduct of a party that does not affect that party’s relationship to the child.

(3) In determining parenting time or decision-making responsibilities, the court shall not presume that any person is better able to serve the best interests of the child because of that person’s sex.

(3.5) A request by either party for genetic testing shall not prejudice the requesting party in the allocation of parental responsibilities pursuant to subsection (1.5) of this section.

(4) If a party is absent or leaves home because of an act or threatened act of domestic violence committed by the other party, such absence or leaving shall not be a factor in determining the best interests of the child.

(5) Repealed.

(6) In the event of a medical emergency, either party shall be allowed to obtain necessary medical treatment for the minor child or children without being in violation of the order allocating decision-making responsibility or in contempt of court.

(7) In order to implement an order allocating parental responsibilities, both parties may submit a parenting plan or plans for the court’s approval that shall address both parenting time and the allocation of decision-making responsibilities. If no parenting plan is submitted or if the court does not approve a submitted parenting plan, the court, on its own motion, shall formulate a parenting plan that shall address parenting time and the allocation of decision-making responsibilities.

(8) The court may order mediation, pursuant to section 13-22-311, C.R.S., to assist the parties in formulating or modifying a parenting plan or in implementing a parenting plan specified in subsection (7) of this section and may allocate the cost of said mediation between the parties.

C.R.S. 14-10-124

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