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Facts about child custody in Colorado

It's much easier to get good results in a child custody dispute if you have appropriate expectations when you start. That's why it's important to understand how Colorado's custody laws work before you start.

In Colorado, custody is now called "parental responsibilities," to reflect the idea that either one or both parents will have the right to make major decisions regarding the child's welfare. Here are the most important things you should know:

1. Neither mothers nor fathers are given any preference when it comes to physical custody.

Ideally, the court prefers to assign joint parental responsibilities. However, every case is unique. Your custody case will be nothing like the cases of your friends or relatives -- so listen to your attorney and not everyone else.

2. Domestic violence will have a negative effect on the abuser's ability to get joint parental responsibilities.

It's crucial to realize that the family court uses a much lower standard of proof than a criminal court when deciding if there's evidence of abuse. That means that you do not have to be convicted of domestic violence in criminal court to suffer the consequences in family court.

3. The failings of your spouse are only relevant if it affects his or her ability to parent.

In other words, not everything that made your spouse a bad marriage partner is important to the court. For example, his or her infidelity wouldn't be important in a custody hearing unless it somehow affected his or her ability to be a good parent. Bringing up irrelevant issues won't help you in a custody case and could make you look like you are simply being vindictive.

4. Visitation never depends on support.

While child support payments are partially determined by how many overnights the child spends with each parent, the failure to pay that support does not affect visitation. If you withhold visitation because the other parent hasn't paid his or her support, the court could take primary physical custody away from you.

It's very important to adhere to whatever visitation order is in place until a judge says otherwise. Whenever possible, it's advisable to work out a custody agreement with your spouse -- that allows you both to retain the most control over your situation and your child's future.

Source: FindLaw, "Colorado Child Custody Laws," accessed May 11, 2018

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