Custody battles have traditionally been a part of many contentious divorces. Following family experts’ lead, however, the courts here in Colorado typically award custody to both parents. Actually, custody is no longer a term used in Colorado divorce cases -- it has been replaced by the term "Allocation of Parental Responsibilities," which includes parenting time and decision making.
There are still times that dads will have to fight the traditional stereotypes that mothers make the best parent for raising children. The situation may arise shortly after the birth of a child when a mother nurses the child and a bond quickly forms. Sometimes it is a matter of a parent’s actions – a parent may have had mental health or substance abuse issues that prevented responsible parenting, or one parent aggressively excluded the other parent from parenting opportunities with the children, creating distance between the excluded parent and their children.
Regaining your right of access to your children
Any parent planning to seek an allocation of parental responsibilities will need to hire an attorney to begin the process. Family experts also offer other tips that can help a parent increase their chances of success in modifying any parenting agreement:
- Build a strong relationship: This starts with being as active as possible in the lives of the children, starting from birth.
- Know the details: This includes knowledge of the daily schedule, the names of doctors, teachers and best friends as well as the other small but essential aspects of the children's lives.
- Keep notes (including recording important times, dates, places, and names): This can help with the above point, but also mark negative behavior from the other parent.
- Stay civil: Take the high road regardless of how the other parent acts. If possible, try to create a strong working relationship with the coparent. Do not threaten to withhold child support to gain access to your children.
- Understand Colorado’s custody laws: The Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) outlines parents’ rights and responsibilities.
- Keep the kids out of it: Do not vent about an ex or share legal information with the children. Judges do not like to see parents drag children into these disputes.
- Become familiar with the best interests of the child analysis in the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S. §14-10-124).
- Provide suitable living arrangements: A home with bedrooms and other accommodations for the kids will be necessary.
- Follow proper courtroom etiquette: Dress and act appropriately to prove that you are serious about undertaking the responsibility of active parenting.
- Stay away from social media: Do not vent frustrations or share anything that can be misinterpreted to give a negative impression of your character, including pictures out with friends or love interests.
Contact a knowledgeable family law attorney
Ideally, a new arrangement can be agreed upon by the parents with help and guidance from a family law attorney using collaborative law, mediation or arbitration. If litigation is necessary, these experienced professionals can help parents prepare and work toward the goal of becoming an active part of your children’s lives.