CUSTODY DISPUTE - CAN A CHILD CHOOSE?
KARI COOK, June 25, 2019
Children are deeply affected when a family breaks apart from divorce. They are resilient, but often feel helplessly caught in the middle of the separation, and even though family law ensures the safety and well-being of the child during these tough times, the problem is that the voices of children younger than 14 are often unheard and unaccounted for in the custody dispute. Some states even require that the child be a legal adult before they can choose which parent they would like to live with after divorce (Shields, 2012).
Luckily in Colorado, there is no set age requirement for a child’s wishes to be taken into consideration during a custody dispute, but in most cases these children are at least 12-13 and their preference is only one factor among many that the court uses to determine the custody arrangement (Colorado Judicial Branch, 2019). Furthermore, before their preference is taken into consideration, the court needs evidence that the child is mature enough to express reasoned, independent choices.
So how do you assemble evidence for the court that proves your child is mature, competent, and responsible enough to make a reasoned, reliable, and independent choice regarding their new living arrangement? Here are 3 tips below.
1. Character and Personality Traits
Share with the court the temperament and personality of your child. Are they self-sufficient, responsible, and level-headed? Can they problem solve independently and be trusted to make good choices in times of stress or pressure? Give the court some examples to back up your child’s character.
2. Sports and Extracurricular Activities
Does your child play on any team sports, or independent sports? Can they manage their time efficiently while juggling these sports, extracurricular activities, and school work all the while maintaining good grades? Do they have a job? Talk about these things and how they are becoming a responsible member of the community.
3. Chores and Responsibilities at Home
Explain how helpful your child is at home. Are they mature enough to complete household tasks with competent workmanship? And do they take the initiative to help out when needed without being told to do so? Highlight these skills and traits.
All of these traits and responsibilities help give the court insight as to how much weight your child’s preference will hold in the custody arrangement. If your child is only 10, but proves to be highly responsible, mature, and independent, then chances are, their preference will be taken into consideration.
Lastly, it might also be helpful to provide the court with a back-up plan in case things within the custody arrangement are not working out as planned. This backup plan will address questions like how you will communicate with your ex if your child expresses desires for a different custody arrangement and how you will agree upon a new custody agreement if necessary. Another situation to consider is if your child gets in trouble, starts showing concerning or reckless behavior, or is acting out in a problematic way, how will you address these behaviors as co-parents within the custody arrangement? And lastly, how will you coordinate holidays, special occasions, or events and grant flexibility when plans need to change?
The answers to these scenarios can be tough to map out, but committing to a communication tool like Civil Communicator during and after divorce is one of the best ways to not only ensure smooth communication with your ex, but also proves to the court that you are willing to go above and beyond to ensure your child’s well being by maintaining a civil relationship with your ex. After all, your child’s well-being and their best interests are what matters most, and will ultimately dictate the custody arrangement.
Bonnie Shields. (2012) 5 Facts: Child Custody in Colorado. [Web Article]. Retrieved from https://bonnieshieldslaw.com/5-facts-about-child-custody-in-colorado/
Colorado Judicial Branch. (2019). Family Cases – Divorce [Web Article]. Retrieved from https://www.courts.state.co.us/Self_Help/divorce/