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Child Custody & Parenting Time

Fort Collins Child Custody Attorney

Your relationship with your child is important, and at the Law Offices of Shawn H. Smith, we can help you protect it when divorce and legal issues threaten it. Based in Fort Collins and Greeley, our experienced family law attorney serves mothers and fathers in all child custody matters.

What Is Parental Responsibility?

Parenting roles are often referred to as “custody,” but this term is not used in Colorado laws. The state’s laws and courts use “parental responsibility” to describe parenting time and decision-making responsibilities. It is important to know that while these phrases are often used interchangeably, “parental responsibility” is the term adopted by the state.

Helping You Protect Your Important Relationship With Your Child

For more than a decade, Shawn H. Smith has helped Colorado residents vigorously protect their parental rights, including the rights of nonbiological parents.

In Colorado, one or both parents may be awarded decision-making authority – parental responsibility – as well as physical care (custody) of their child. There is a preference in Colorado law for joint parental responsibility and decision-making, which means that both parents make major life decisions about their children together. Those decisions may revolve around such subjects as education, medical care and religion.

As with decision-making rights, a court order regarding when each parent will be with the child for parenting time will hinge on the best interests of the child.

When you consult with the Law Offices of Shawn H. Smith, we will work with you to learn about your circumstances and help you understand how state laws will apply to your case and how those laws may impact your child.

Our goal is to help you create a parenting plan that is in the best interests of your child and agreeable to both parents. By helping clients, Shawn H. Smith has found that parties who are able to work together are often able to create plans that are satisfying for everyone. We understand that not every case can be amicably resolved, however. We will not hesitate to take your case to trial, when necessary.

Are you seeking to modify your child custody and parenting time agreement? The Law Offices of Shawn H. Smith can assist you with your modifications, as well as enforcement and contempt matters. Please contact our firm today to learn more.

Helpful Information About Child Custody Matters

You want what is best for your children, but a mistake can hurt your case for the custody or child support arrangement you prefer. Here are some tips to help ensure a smoother process that minimizes the trauma for your kids and avoids sabotaging your case.

First, do not speak poorly about your child’s other parent. Specifcally, do not share any information or display negative emotions relating to any conflict you may have with the other parent. Kids don’t need to know about the adult issues. You and the other parent are splitting up, not the child.

Instead, listen to your child. Reassure them that they will always get to love both parents. Make sure they understand that your separation was not caused by anything the child said or did. Remember – your child is grieving the loss of the parents’ relationship, too. Be patient with your children when they express their emotions.

Be courteous and respectful to your child’s other parent during exchanges. Your child loves both of you. Don’t make exchanges a stressful event for them. Whether you are picking up or dropping off your child, do your best to be on time.

Even though you are no longer together, you and your ex are still co-parents. Share information about your child with them so they can support your child’s interests, too.

Remember – child support is for your child. Do not view it as money paid for the other parent. If you receive child support, use it wisely to care for your children. You are both responsible to support your children.

Frequently Asked Questions About Child Custody Matters

At the Law Offices of Shawn H. Smith, we understand that clients are concerned about various aspects of their cases. The majority of our clients’ questions are either answered during a consultation or through the different stages of the legal process. While every case is unique, there are some common questions that weigh heavily on parents’ minds.

Is there a difference between legal and physical custody?

With most states changing to a parenting time or parenting plan program, the phrases legal and physical custody are becoming less and less common. In Colorado, custody is referred to as “parental responsibility.” Parental responsibility has two parts: decision-making, which is “joint” or “sole,” and “parenting time,” which is the time for which each parent has the child(ren). Parenting time used to be called “physical custody” if the child lived with you most of the time and “visitation” was exercised by the other parent. Decision-making deals specifically with the major life decisions that are made in the child’s life. Decisions related to education, religion or medical care are typically addressed by both parents or joint decision-making.

Can parenting time arrangements and decision-making authority be modified?

Yes. The majority of the factors in a divorce decree can be modified as long as there is a valid reason and the court finds that it is in the best interests of the child or both parents agree to the change. When a substantial change impacts your finances – the loss of a job, reduction in hours, medical emergency, etc. – it is probably necessary to re-examine your child support order. Additionally, it is wise to work with skilled attorneys for your modification – verbal agreements are not enforceable.

What is parental alienation?

Children of divorce are sensitive to even the most subtle cues – verbal or nonverbal. Even if parents attempt to hide their true feelings about their ex-spouses, children can be affected. It can lead to serious legal and psychological problems, however, when parents convey their disdain to their children. When one parent works to sway a child’s feelings about the other parent, it can be said that parental alienation has occurred. If you believe that your ex-spouse is attempting to plant negative thoughts or emotions in your children’s minds, you should contact our lawyers.

Can a father get primary care (custody) of his children?

In short, yes. In recent years, Colorado courts have made significant changes in legislation regarding fathers’ rights. Custody is determined by many factors, including the child’s relationship with the parent and the presence of a stable home environment. Gender might have been a serious influence in the past, but not anymore.

I’m not receiving the child support that was ordered. Can I withhold parenting time (visitation)?

It would be a serious mistake to attempt to take matters into your own hands. If your ex-spouse is not paying the court-ordered support, there is a legal process in place for enforcement. It is crucial that you discuss your situation with skilled Fort Collins attorneys who can explain your legal options.

Contact The Law Offices of Shawn H. Smith

We invite you to contact the Law Offices of Shawn H. Smith today at 970-387-6858. Our law office hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.