CAN A CHILD CHOOSE IN CUSTODY ISSUES?
When parents divorce or split up, one of the most complicated choices is defining custody agreements between all parties and children. Each parent may have differing views on child custody. Many jurisdictions permit judges to recognize maternal choice before finalizing custody agreements.
This brief article will illustrate how a child’s choice when pursuing custody options in Colorado. If you have additional concerns, you can contact a Colorado Child Custody specialist or research rulings on the Colorado courts’ child custody positions.
In Colorado, judges select custody strategies focused on parent’s and children’s best interests. Colorado State Law promotes regular and continuous interaction between parents and their minor children. In most situations, the judge presumes that shared parenting is preferable, but only if it is in the child’s best interest. (C.R.S. 14-10-124(1)).
If you’re going through a divorce or have agreed to legally separate, it is essential to negotiate the custodial situation for small children. Most divorcing parents will arrive at a mutually agreeable arrangement for custody of their children. If not, a judge can make all the necessary decisions regarding child custody and parenting time.
WHAT THE COURT CONSIDERS WHEN DETERMINING CUSTODY
- Parental wishes concerning custody.
- The child’s stability within the mother-child relationship.
- The child’s overall emotional, academic, and social growth.
- Both parents’ mental and physical well-being is significant.
- The child’s emotional and physical fitness.
- Each parent’s ability to maintain a good relationship with each other.
- If records exist of sexual violence or harassment by either parent.
- The personal past and finances of each parent.
- The proximity of their biological families.
- A parent’s willingness to place his/her child’s interests above his/her own.
- The child’s interests should be considered, regardless of maturity. (Colorado Revised Laws § 14-10-124 (1.5)).
HOW MUCH WEIGHT DO THE CHILD'S WISHES CARRY?
The answer is a lot. Colorado courts shall abide by a child’s choice once they are old enough to convey a reasoned and independent preference. However, there is no set age whereby a judge must include the child’s wishes. The Court will judge the specific circumstances of each case.
The judge must first assess if the child is intelligent enough to articulate their preference for one parent over the other. If a child is mature enough to share his or her opinion, the judge determines how much weight to assign to the child’s view.
Further, when a child asks to reside with the more “fun” parent or the parent who offers more generous presents, the Court won’t deem that important for a custody decision. Under these cases, the courts would weigh the child’s best interests in determining if they want to remain with the more active adult or the one who is more involved.
In Colorado, judges are often vigilant to be sure a parent isn’t inappropriately exploiting the child’s view. The Court can appoint psychotherapists to decide the child’s genuine opinion and evaluate if a parent is attempting to manipulate their child in any way. If the Court believes that a parent’s action is not in the child’s best interest, the Court will not likely rule on that option.
Courts in Colorado are forbidden from weighing the public interest considerations while making a custody decision. Suppose the parent’s behaviors may damage the child or a person’s gender (Colorado Civil Responsibility Statute). In that case, the Court can appoint psychotherapists to decide the child’s genuine opinion and evaluate if a parent is attempting to manipulate their child in any way.
DO CHILDREN HAVE TO TESTIFY IN OPEN COURT?
Colorado courts seldom ask a child to testify about custodial interests in a court of trial. The judge would potentially interview the child individually rather than with his/her parents present and voicing the custodial parent’s choice in the courtroom. So the judge may provide for parent’s attorneys to be present and that a court reporter should log hearings.
Judges have the right to track each situation and decide whether or not to interview the children involved. Sometimes the Court may decline to meet with the children if another witness had already testified about the child’s wishes.
As courts determine if an advocate can interview a child, they also weigh the child’s interests in a custody case. If the Court decides that it is beneficial to the proceedings to interview this child, the Court will personally question them. It is up to the judge to assess which questions each child will be asked.
The Court usually authorizes the counsel to ask only a small range of questions to the child. Parents aren’t permitted to interrogate their children why they chose to remain with the other parent. Judges hold inquiries to a minimum, so the child doesn’t get disturbed or disturbed.
After the judge has received the child’s input and weighed all the other considerations, the judge may render a proper custody order for the family.
CUSTODY ORDERS AND PARENTING PLANS
According to the ruling, it is in the child’s best interest to consistently see each parent.
A typical custody schedule has rotating weekends, vacations, school breaks, and time with the parent throughout the summer. In certain instances, the Court will recognize a child’s will while deciding the schedule of visits, provided the child is of appropriate age and capacity.
If the Court determines that it’s in the child’s best interest, the judge will authorize a custody order’s visiting schedule. In Colorado, children have the right to live in and visit households where domestic violence and child neglect is not present. There are times when intimate interaction with a non-custodial parent can be disruptive or otherwise not in a child’s best interest.
For example, if a person has a history of previous domestic violence or child neglect, the Court presumes that it is not in the child’s best interest to visit that parent. The assumption is “rebuttable,” implying an attorney can prove a positive component for the child. (Colorado Revised Laws § 14-10-124 (1.5)).
Courts can order supervised visits between parents in some cases. The custodial parent is liable for all costs involved with nursery and education. When a parent petitions for unsupervised visits, the Court must guarantee no risk to the child’s mental or physical health.
Contact a Colorado Springs family law specialist if you need further details regarding the impact of children’s custodial desires on child custody agreements.