Frequently I’m asked if the age of the child impacts a Judge’s decision for a shared parenting plan.
The answer is always the same – “It Depends…”
The presumption in Colorado is that parenting time should be equal. The child has a right to share his or her life with both parents. There are a million different factors and arguments that can be made that will impact the Court’s decision on parenting time before the age of the child.
The Court is interested in WHAT IS IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD. To determine this, Colorado families, courts and professionals are to consider the following under CRS §14-10-124. This is the legal terminology for you to review but here is a quick summary.
The court determines the allocation of parental responsibilities. The biggest consideration is the physical, mental and emotional needs of the child.
The wishes of the child’s parents as to the parenting time.
The wishes of the child’s- if they are sufficiently mature.
The interaction and interrelationship between child, parent and siblings.
The Childs adjustment to living environment.
The mental and physical health of all parties.
The ability of the parents to encourage love and affection.
Past patterns of involvement.
Physical Proximity from each parent and life during the marriage
Is there any abuse or neglect.
The ability of each party to put the needs of the child over their own.
Examples of concerns for specific ages…
WHEN THEY ARE BABIES
With the little babies the competing interests for parents and the professionals to consider is consistency for the child; is the baby breast-feeding; and how can the child best bond with both parents. Most often I see the child predominantly in 1 house for over nights with –usually the father – having very frequent short visits to include a bottle feeding, changing and putting the child to sleep.
WHEN THE CHILDREN ARE BETWEEN 3-7
3 to 7 is an interesting time for parenting plans. We have kids who are not in school yet, so we often try and juggle schedules to have more parenting time and less time for the child in daycare. When both parents have traditional 9-5 jobs, we usually work hard to keep the child in one daycare setting with both parents. Consistency and predictability is so important for children.
As the Colorado statutes prevent the Court’s from imputing income to a mother of a child under 2 ½, and in many instances parents believe it is still best for mom to stay home with the child – if at all possible- there are often maintenance issues or requests for deviation from the guidelines to make these early years work for both parents financially while maintaining the best possible lifestyle for a baby in this situation.
As a sidenote, I still hear of couples who don’t get along and think having a baby will make everything so much better. NOT ONCE have I seen adding no sleeping, shitty diapers and the needs of a little innocent child make a marriage better. Don’t do it.
WHEN CHILDREN ARE BETWEEN 7-12
As statutory guidelines make it very difficult to change a parenting plan more often than every 2 years, CRS 14-10-129 (1.5), (can’t get this to hyperlink). Your child’s best interests are served by choosing an elementary school where you can agree to let her stay, make friends, have her own support system and both support her life by not living too far from her school. If this isn’t possible, then plan on one parent having more of a weekend and breaks parenting plan and weekly dinner visits.
Always remember that your child did not ask for this situation between the two of you and should not have to experience detriment or chaos so you can have your overnights.
WHEN CHILDREN ARE BETWEEN 13-17
Depending on how you handled the separation in the earlier years, or if you are divorcing now with your child in their teenage years, even more deference to their schedule while exercising strong communication between the two of you will make all of the difference from behavior, to their own sense of identity and academic performance. This is the age where involving your child in the parenting plan is so often successful and less costly in litigation to you. Let’s face it, once he is driving, he is going to determine where he is staying for the overnight – not you.
Age is definitely a factor of consideration – child’s adjustment, child’s wishes, and so very important for young children, the ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party.
It just depends.
Please contact me if you would like to discuss your personal situation. 720-722-0776