Denver Determinations of Home State Jurisdiction Attorney
The people of the state of Colorado are highly mobile and dynamic, and while they are marrying at high rates, they are pursuing divorce at high rates as well. If a marriage ends, and a parent moves to another state to pursue new job opportunities, join other family members, or for other purposes, this can introduce complications in understanding how the existing custody order will apply.
Interstate child custody can be difficult, as divorced parents can have differences concerning many decisions related to their children, including child support or visitation disputes. For this reason, The Uniform Child-Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act was established, which lays out the guidelines for the jurisdiction determination of a custody order. This allows divorced couples to understand which home state court jurisdiction will preside over their custody case in terms of modification and enforcement.
In Denver, determinations of home state jurisdiction can be confusing and overwhelming for parents. The legal team at Woody Law Firm, LLC, has deep knowledge of Colorado divorce law, as well as interstate custody cases, and can help walk parents through complex family law questions and disputes.
What Is Home State Jurisdiction?
In a cross-state parenting custody matter, it’s important to know the definition of home-state jurisdiction. The concept of home state jurisdiction was created to outline which state court has jurisdiction if divorced parents are living across 2 different states.
The key piece of legislation that determines which state is the home state is the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). The UCCJEA states that the home state, or the state with court jurisdiction, is determined by understanding how long the child has stayed in a certain state for a consecutive period. This period is usually around 6 months long.
The UCCJEA ensures that custody matters, including whom the custodial parent will be and how assets will be distributed in terms of child support, are not decided on by two different courts so that these decisions do not get duplicated. It also makes sure that the interests of the children involved in the case are taken into account.
What Is a Custody Dispute?
A custody dispute happens when two parents of a child cannot come to an agreement regarding who should have custody of the child. The custody can be legal, physical, or both. These types of disagreements will commonly arise upon a Colorado divorce or separation and can have serious consequences for the children in the family. Overall, custody disputes can be financially and emotionally toiling, with long-term implications for the future of the family.
Understanding Legal and Physical Custody
The two types of custody are legal and physical custody. Physical custody, otherwise referred to as residential custody, indicates where the child will physically reside. Physical custody dictates the primary place of living for the child, and it can be either sole or joint. Sole custody is when the child lives mostly with one parent, and joint custody is when the child is splitting their time living with both parents.
Legal custody, on the other hand, refers to decision-making about critical choices regarding the upbringing of the child. This can include decisions such as:
- Where they will go to school
- Whether they will practice a religion
- Major healthcare-related decisions
- How long they can stay out at night
Sole legal custody refers to when one parent decides on important decisions about the child’s life, and joint legal custody refers to when both parents are deciding together on important life decisions for the child.
How Colorado Courts Make Custody Determinations
When determining who will get custody during a custody dispute, and whether the custody will be joint or sole, the courts in Colorado will make a decision that is most conducive to the well-being of the child. Considerations that will be taken into account by the courts include the following:
- The capability of each parent to provide a caring and safe environment for the child. The situation at home must be stable. It must also provide strong parenting leadership, structure, and the provision of basic needs, such as meals and educational resources.
- What the relationship between each parent and each child is like, including the dynamics between siblings. If two siblings get along better with the mother, and another has a better relationship with the father, then this will be taken into account for the custody plan of each of the children.
- If applicable, the preference of the child will be taken into account. For example, if the child prefers to live with the father over the mother, then the courts will take this into consideration.
- The age of the child will be considered, as this will impact their specific needs. If the child is 3, then they will need a stable daycare or childcare situation. If they are 16, then they will need academic resources, extracurricular options, and a supportive social community.
- The child’s ability to adapt to a certain school and community. For example, if one of the parents lives in a new school district, and the child has social interaction issues, this will need to be taken into account.
- The mental health of each parent. If one parent has a history of a severe mental disorder, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, this can have an impact on their ability to provide a caring and stable environment for their child.
- The physical health of each parent. If one parent is severely disabled or has a debilitating chronic disease, this may impact their ability to provide for their child, especially if the child is of a younger age.
- Whether there is a history of domestic violence. If domestic violence has occurred in the family, such as one parent perpetrating child abuse or engaging in physical abuse on the other parent, then this will seriously be taken into account for custody determination.
- Whether there is a history of substance abuse. If a parent has a history of severe substance abuse, such as alcoholism or addiction to heroin or other hard drugs, this will be highly considered by the Colorado courts when deciding on custody determination.
- Rapport between the parents to encourage strong parent-child relationships with all the individuals involved. If one parent is less willing to encourage a strong relationship between the other parent and the child or children, then this will be considered by the Colorado court.
When making a custody determination, each state court system has different criteria for deciding how the custody plan will be determined and implemented. In addition to the criteria mentioned above, the Colorado family court will take other factors into account as well as long as they can aid in the determination of the optimal living and parenting situation for the child’s well-being.
Interstate Custody Disputes Involving Colorado
Interstate custody disputes often occur among divorced parents who move away from each other. These disputes can be stressful and confusing to handle, as it may not always be clear who the key decision-making court will be. Such custody disputes include:
- A parent is wanting to relocate. Oftentimes, one parent will want to move to another state upon divorcing or separating from a spouse or partner. If the relocating parent takes a child with them, and moves from Colorado to another state, such as Nevada, this can potentially result in a custody dispute. In this case, the parent still in Colorado could try to contest the relocation of the child, and understanding whether Colorado or Nevada should have home state jurisdiction could be difficult.
- One parent tries to file for custody in a state that may be more likely to rule in their favor. This concept, otherwise known as forum shopping, can happen during interstate custody cases. For example, if a Colorado parent moves to Georgia to file for custody because the custody laws there are likely to give them the ruling that they are looking for, this is considered to be forum shopping.
- Ensuring that out-of-state custody orders are followed up on. If a child custody decision is made in Colorado, but a parent moves with the child or children to Arizona, then those courts will need to coordinate with each other to ensure that the original custody decision made by the Colorado courts is enforced.
- A child is abducted from the state by a parent. In the unfortunate case that a child is kidnapped from a state, the custody decision made in the home state can be used and enforced in the state that the child was taken to so the child can get back home.
- Other family members, such as an aunt, uncle or grandparent, are trying to get custody of a child. If another family member is trying to secure custody over a child, but the custody order for the child was issued in another state than the one that they are requesting the modification in, then this can lead to an interstate custody battle.
- A parent is trying to modify the existing custody order. If a custody order was made in Colorado, and a parent attempts to go to court to make a change to a custody order in another state like Florida, then this can bring up a legal battle over whether Florida can issue the modification or not.
To determine which state court has jurisdiction over custody matters, it is critical to have a thorough understanding of family law in Colorado, along with the details associated with the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).
An experienced and compassionate lawyer who works in interstate custody law matters can support you with knowledge and advice. They can also help you settle disputes within the proper legal guidelines to ensure that the right decision can be made for your child.
At What Age Can a Child in Denver, Colorado, Decide Which Parent to Live With?
In the state of Colorado, there is no set age where children can officially decide to live with one parent over the other. However, if the child shows the courts that they have a preference, then the Colorado court will take this into account when deciding on custody arrangements, along with other factors.
If the child is older, more mature, and eloquent in expressing their opinions, then their preference will be more deeply considered by the courts than if they are younger and less mature. When deciding on the credibility of a child’s preference, the court will try to understand whether the child’s opinion is original, and their own, or if it has been forced on them by another parent.
How Can I Change the Jurisdiction for My Child Custody Case?
To change the home state jurisdiction for your child custody case, it’s important to work with a family lawyer who is deeply familiar with the laws of your home state and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA).
The process will include notifying the current jurisdiction that you want the change, then notifying the new jurisdiction. During the dispute relocation, you will need to go to court hearings to argue your case. You must show that you have a significant enough relationship with your child to justify that your custody case should be handled by court jurisdiction in your state.
Denver Divorce Lawyers Who Can Help You With Your Custody Dispute Case
Disputes over the children after divorce or separation are highly complex because they involve intricate state family law, are charged with emotion, and can have direct and long-lasting implications for the upbringing of the children involved. On top of that, when these cases involve multiple states, this can complicate the matter even further.
At Woody Law Firm, LLC, our dedicated Denver family lawyers have experience working with cases that involve complex interstate custody disputes. We are not afraid to work on complicated child custody issues. We can help you understand the potential outcomes of your case and come up with a solid legal plan to pursue an outcome that will be to the optimal benefit of your child or children. Contact one of our lawyers today to learn about how you can cure your custody dispute-related headaches.