Parental Responsibility and Decision Making Responsibility

Note: This area of the law is very complex; the help of an attorney is needed to help parents understand the nuances of the law. 

The old term “Child Custody” has been replaced with two terms, Parental Responsibility and Decision Making Responsibility, but when combined they mean basically the same thing.

The Best interests of child standard.

All decisions regarding children are decided by the court based upon the “best interest of the child” standard.  This same standard should be followed by couples who are attempting to reach an agreement as to parenting and decision making. Parents should place the interests of their children first when considering any issue impacting or involving minor children.  

According to the Legislative declaration the active involvement of both parents is usually in the best interest of the child; however, there are exceptions.  The specific language follows:

“ While co-parenting is not appropriate in all circumstances following dissolution of marriage or legal separation, the general assembly finds and declares that, in most circumstances, 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 when appropriate, 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.”

But what are some of the factors a court looks at to determine what is in the child’s best interest? 

1.  The past involvement with the child by a parent,

2. The parents’ wishes,

3.  Family relationships formed or bonds with members of the family and the child,

4. The mental and physical health of parties,

5. The ability of a party to put the child’s needs ahead of their own,

6. The ability of a party to encouragement of love and contact between the child and the other party,

7. The child’s wishes, if they are mature enough to express reasoned and independent preferences,

8.  The history of domestic violence (if any), and endangerment issues,

9. The physical location of each parent, and

10. If a child has special needs, the location of medical providers, and the ability of each parent to meet these special needs are relevant considerations.

The Colorado Revised Statue (in part)

§ 14-10-124. Best interests of child

(1) Legislative declaration. While co-parenting is not appropriate in all circumstances following dissolution of marriage or legal separation, the general assembly finds and declares that, in most circumstances, 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 when appropriate, 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.

(1.5) 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 child’s safety and 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 addition to a finding that parenting time would endanger the child’s physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development, in any order imposing or continuing a parenting time restriction the court shall enumerate the specific factual findings supporting the restriction. 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; except that, if the court determines that a party is acting to protect the child from witnessing domestic violence or from being a victim of child abuse or neglect or domestic violence, the party’s protective actions shall not be considered with respect to this factor;

 (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;

(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. When a claim of child abuse or neglect or domestic violence has been made to the court, or the court has reason to believe that a party has committed child abuse or neglect or domestic violence, prior to allocating decision-making responsibility, the court shall follow the provisions of subsection (4) of this section. 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;

(1.7) Pursuant to section 14-10-123.4, children have the right to have the determination of matters relating to parental responsibilities based upon the best interests of the child. In contested hearings on final orders regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities, the court shall make findings on the record concerning the factors the court considered and the reasons why the allocation of parental responsibilities is in the best interests of 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)

 (a) When a claim of child abuse or neglect or domestic violence has been made to the court, or the court has reason to believe that a party has committed child abuse or neglect or domestic violence, prior to allocating parental responsibilities, including parenting time and decision-making responsibility, and prior to considering the factors set forth in paragraphs

 (a) and (b) of subsection (1.5) of this section, the court shall consider the following factors:

 (I) [Similar to 14-10-124(1.5)(b)(IV)]Whether one of the parties has committed an act of child abuse or neglect as defined in section 18-6-401, C.R.S., or as defined under the law of any state, which factor must be supported by a preponderance of the evidence. If the court finds that one of the parties has committed 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.

 (II) [Similar to 14-10-124(1.5)(b)(V)]Whether one of the parties has committed an act of domestic violence, has engaged in a pattern of domestic violence, or has a history of domestic violence, which factor must be supported by a preponderance of the evidence. If the court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that one of the parties has committed domestic violence:

 (A) 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 there is credible evidence of the ability of the parties to make decisions cooperatively in the best interest of the child in a manner that is safe for the abused party and the child; and

 (B) The court shall not appoint a parenting coordinator solely to ensure that mutual decision-making can be accomplished.

 (b) The court shall consider the additional factors set forth in paragraphs

 (a) and (b) of subsection (1.5) of this section in light of any finding of child abuse or neglect or domestic violence pursuant to this subsection (4).

WARRING:

We make an effort to keep this public information up to date. However, we do not make any warranty as to this information’s currency, nor do we make any other warranties about the above information. The use of this site does not constitute legal advice and anything contained therein is for informational purposes only. Also note that this is not a complete compilation of The Colorado Revised Statutes.

The best practice is to contact an attorney to receive the help and legal counsel necessary to navigate this very complex area of the law.