Denver Allocations of Parental Responsibility Attorney
Allocation of parental responsibilities is not a phrase that many are familiar with. However, if you are involved in a divorce or a legal parentage matter, you will learn that it is another term for child custody. This is the legal process that determines the rights each parent has when making decisions about the care of their child, their education, and their upbringing. It will also determine what the living arrangements will be and how visitation will be addressed. This process can be difficult enough for traditional parents. However, nontraditional families, including individuals, same-sex couples, unwed couples, and other unique families, face many extensive challenges. No matter what a family looks like, or what the definition of a parent is, the rights and privileges that come with them are extended to all.
At Woody Law Firm, LLC, we understand that the law recognizes and seeks to provide the ideal situation for children. We know that for many non-traditional families, parental responsibility is just as important to the legal parent as it is to the non-legal parent. The knowledge and experience that our family law attorneys have concerning the rights of legal parents, genetic parents, and non-legal parents could make the difference in your case.
Examples of Non-Traditional Families
In most family law cases that involve children, the child’s genetic parents are assumed to be the child’s parents. However, this is not always the case. As the law continues to redefine what family can look like, so too do the rights and privileges extended to these non-traditional situations. The biggest misconception is that non-traditional refers to different types of romantic relationships. While this is one aspect of the definition, it can also be as simple as an extended member of the family, such as a grandparent, caring for a child or children who reside in a cohabitation residence.
Understanding non-traditional families and how they influence a child’s development is important when arguing aspects of the law. In some situations, a child can form a parental bond with a person living in the residence even if that person is not their biological or legal parent. Examples of non-traditional families include:
- Same-sex marriages
- Transgender relationships
- Common law marriages
- Grandparents as legal guardians
- A home with a stepparent
These examples, and many others, all play a role in the development of the child through the relationships the child builds.
In cases where a nonparent is seeking to be a part of an allocation of parental responsibility order, they must meet one of the following conditions:
- The child is in their primary care and not in the care of either parent.
- The child has been in the nonparent’s care for a minimum of 6 months, with less than 6 months since the child left their care. In other words, if a child is in nonparental care from January to June, then the child is in someone else’s care. The nonparent can then file to seek custody prior to the end of that same year.
What Is the Allocation of Parental Responsibility in Colorado?
When families with children find themselves at odds, it can be a devastating moment. Whether by divorce, a break-up, or two parents who never lived with each other and have no plans to do so, a split home can be difficult for everyone involved. This difficulty is why parental responsibility exists. It is the legal basis for parents to ensure that the interests of the child are being met. Most importantly, it defines how significant decisions will be made in the child’s life and what the child’s living arrangements will be. An allocation of parental responsibility includes:
- Oversight of the day-to-day decision-making, including discipline, meals, and routines
- A determination of the primary decision maker or how the decision process will be divided
- The authority to make large decisions about school, medical care, religion, and more
- Any legally mandated joint decisions that require discussion between all parties involved, regardless of who holds the final say
In addition, an allocation of parental rights provides the parameters for custody, parental contact, and visitation scheduling, including:
- Specific and practical parenting plans. These may include transportation, phone contact, holiday and summer schedules, and the expectations around travel.
- An encouragement of consistent contact between the parent or parties involved with the child. This maintains the relationship as long as it is not detrimental to the child.
- Any restrictions on the amount of time each party is allowed with the child or mandatory supervision. This will protect the child’s safety and emotional well-being.
All of these can be modified, added to, or removed as necessary.
Finally, an allocation of parental responsibilities provides the arrangement for child support based on the physical care they are given.
While these are usually the responsibility of the child’s parents, non-traditional situations can add other dynamics. There may be situations where family members feel the parents are not able to do what is most beneficial for the child. They may petition the court to consider allocating responsibilities to include their supporting role. There could be a non-legal parent who feels they have a familial bond with the child. They may argue that it is in the greatest interest of the child to continue that relationship as an important part of their lives.
While courts tend to prefer parents over nonparents, that does not mean that nonparents have no options in these cases. Parenting is protected by the constitution. Therefore, the care of a child primarily falls to the wants of the parent. To gain custody of the child, a nonparent must show that the legal parent is not able to make decisions in the best interest of the child. They must also argue that what the nonparent wishes for the child is in their interest.
Some custody cases involve the child’s parent(s) and a nonparent. To win, there must exist “clear and convincing” evidence that the child’s well-being is most upheld in nonparental custody as opposed to their parents.
Anytime child custody decisions such as these are necessary, the hope is always that the parents, or those involved, will find a way to make the determinations cooperatively. This allows them to keep a unified front for the child’s benefit. However, this is not always the case.
When There Is Disagreement
Unfortunately, reaching an agreement is not always possible. This could be because the parties involved are unable to work amicably towards a solution. There could be evidence of traumatic experiences within the family, such as a history of domestic violence. No matter the situation, if an agreement cannot be reached, it must proceed to litigation. This will determine whether the court grants joint custody or sole custody.
When disagreements occur, and a court intervenes, a judge may decide to appoint an attorney for the child. They will make determinations that are in that child’s interests. Considerations that will be made by the judge include:
- To what extent were major decisions previously made
- How much time each party spent caring for the child
- How mentally and physically able the parties are to provide care
- If the child is of mature decision-making age, what the child considers the ideal situation
- The wishes of the parents, regardless of which parties are involved
- How adapted the child is to their surroundings, including their home, school, or community
- If the child was exposed to any history of abuse
Ultimately, Colorado courts seek to provide the greatest opportunity for the child. They will ascertain what situation will provide the optimal developmental and supportive environment.
Does Colorado Recognize Parental Alienation?
One way a nontraditional family or nonparent may gain custody of a child is when there is clear evidence of parental alienation. This behavior occurs when there is intentional interference from one parent toward the other. They will influence the child to turn them against that parent. Three common signs of parental alienation include:
- Unjust Criticism: While many relationships are healthy and affirming, there can still be moments when one person loses their temper or patience with another. Even if there is no cause or rationale, a child could pick up on this emotion and, in turn, treat the alienated parent in a critical way. The child could appear to always speak negatively of that parent as well.
- Unwavering Support for the Alienating Parent: A child can have a positive tendency toward one parent over the other. However, if they consistently side with one parent over the other, they may be showing signs of alienation.
- Lack of Guilty Feelings: Sometimes, a child has criticisms or negative feelings toward one parent. However, they might consistently rationalize or justify their feelings without ever apologizing for the behavior. They may not even admit that there is anything wrong with the behavior. If so, they are likely alienating that parent.
These conditions are not a regular part of the child’s behavior. They are influenced by one parent at the expense of the other. In parental alienation instances, the child could be influenced by outspoken criticisms of one parent from the other. An alienating parent may purposely interfere with or interrupt the time that the alienated parent is spending with the child. This may include contacting the child or attempting to limit the time they are spending together. In some extreme situations, there could be a false accusation of abuse.
These often happen when parents are still married. However, if one parent attempts to remarry or is separating, it can fuel animosity. That creates an opportunity to push the child toward parental alienation.
In Colorado courts, parental alienation is seen as a willful and intentional attempt to impede parental rights. This can prove that one parent is not fit to receive custody of the child. It can also show that a change is necessary to ensure the child’s interests are met. This could be from a nonparent who is recognizing the negative behaviors.
Is an Allocation of Parental Responsibility Permanent?
While they are legally binding, allocations of parental responsibility are not permanent. They may be modified based on the needs of the child and the facts of each case. If a motion is filed in an existing case, temporary orders could be established by a judge. These can ensure that the child is taken care of while the options for a long-term solution are being determined. These temporary orders will remain in place until permanent orders are established. The permanent orders, whether for a parent or a nonparent, can then be modified through additional motions if circumstances change. These modifications can include established child support, parenting schedule changes, or a review of the decision-making processes for the child’s care. In addition, there are two types of changes that can be made: major and substantial. If the change is considered major, then the modification can only occur every two years. If the modification is considered substantial, then the modification can remain ongoing as facts and circumstances develop. Your attorney can help you understand the difference between both types of changes.
Filing an Allocation of Parental Responsibility Motion
To start a case in Denver, CO which you are seeking an allocation of parental responsibilities, you and your attorney will first provide three forms to the county courthouse:
- A petition
- A case information sheet
- A summons
If you are filing and seeking to join an existing case, you will file:
- A motion to intervene
- A proposed order for the motion to intervene
- A motion to modify the allocation of parental responsibilities
If you are a nonparent, it is your responsibility to ensure that the parents receive notification of your intent. This includes providing them with a formal notice, generally served by a process server or local law enforcement. If you are unable to locate the parent, or do not know the parent personally, you must be able to provide evidence that you made a reasonable attempt to establish contact and provide the notice. This could include:
- Calling those who know the parent
- Attempting to contact them through social media
- Speaking directly with the child about contacting their parent
- Using public records to obtain address information
This should all be documented appropriately.
Once the motion is in process, there will be several court procedures that you will need to be a part of. These include:
- Initial Conference: This would be your first appearance. You will work to identify issues in the case, establish deadlines, and determine necessary next steps.
- Status Conference: This could occur more than once. It serves as a check-in on the progress of previously established requirements. This could also occur if your motion is filed for an existing case.
- Temporary Orders Hearing: This can be requested by either party in the case. It intends to determine what orders may be necessary to keep the child’s interests intact while the case is progressing.
- Permanent Orders: If this is a new case, this will be the final hearing. This type of hearing will fall into three categories: default, contested, or uncontested. In a default hearing, there is a lack of response from other parties involved. In an uncontested hearing, all parties involved agree. If the hearing is contested, the hearing will go through the presentation of evidence and witnesses.
- Motions Hearing: This is similar to a permanent order hearing. However, it seeks to resolve specific motions related to a case. Evidence may or may not need to be presented.
- Emergency Hearing: This hearing is used to restrict parenting time. This is usually done if the child’s physical safety or emotional development is in imminent danger.
- Mediation: This is part of all allocation of parental responsibilities cases. It will occur either at the courthouse or at a designated professional location. If you and your attorney feel there is good reason to skip this process, you may request that it be waived.
Denver Family Law Attorney
Any legal issues that involve family can be difficult. When children become a factor in these already complicated matters, the process becomes more delicate. Understanding what situation is most beneficial for the child involves a multitude of factors. All these must be considered when determining which parent would be most able to provide safety and stability. When the definition of a parent changes, or there are those outside of the traditional family that want to help provide for the child, there can be heated conversations that yield little result.
You may be a parent, a loved one, or a responsible adult who is seeking to gain allocations for parent responsibility for a minor. If so, you should have an attorney on your side who:
- Knows the law
- Is familiar with the process
- Has the knowledge and resources to answer your questions
- Can provide guidance
- Fights for your rights
At Woody Law Firm, LLC, you will find a committed group of professionals who can put you and your child’s interests first. Our team can start with an initial review of your case. We can then help you understand the options available. Contact our offices today and let us help you continue a positive relationship with the child in your life.