Navigating Child Custody Disputes

Posted by Casey Alexander | Mar 14, 2024 | 0 Comments

Child custody disputes can be quite stressful for the entire family in Colorado. Parents may approach these disputes with strong emotions and an intense desire to prevail in court. However, the presence of these strong emotions can cause parents to act irrationally – and often, this can be self-sabotaging. To navigate child custody disputes effectively, one must proceed in a calm and professional manner. The most important step is to get in touch with an experienced child custody attorney. These lawyers can help you approach your custody dispute in a highly targeted manner – and they can represent you in court. Once you team up with one of these lawyers, it may be easier to proceed with confidence. 

The Different Types of Custody Disputes in Colorado

One of the first things you will need to consider is the nature of your custody dispute. There are many different types of custody battles, and each type may require a slightly different strategy. Here are some of the most common variants of custody disputes:

  • Disputes that Occur During Divorce: Many custody disputes arise in the immediate aftermath of separation. During this process, parents simultaneously deal with various other aspects of divorce – including property division, alimony, and child support. During divorce, emotions may be especially high – and custody disputes are common. 

  • Disputes that Occur After Divorce: Child custody disputes may also arise long after the divorce has been resolved. Existing custody orders may be modified years after the divorce, and these modifications generally involve “changes in circumstance.” In other words, the child's life changes to such a degree that a custody modification is desperately needed. 

  • Disputes that Involve Legal Custody: Legal custody involves the decision-making authority of each parent in Colorado. Disputes that involve legal custody therefore revolve around medical treatments, educational decisions, and religious choices that directly affect the child. If parents cannot agree on how these major issues should be handled, a custody dispute may be inevitable. 

  • Disputes that Involve Physical Custody: Physical custody deals entirely with the amount of time each parent spends with their child. If a parent disagrees with how this time is divided, they may engage in a physical custody dispute. For example, a parent may seek to obtain sole physical custody after learning that their ex has been abusing their child. In this case, the child may live with the non-abusive parent permanently from that point onward. 

Do I Have to Go to Court to Resolve a Custody Dispute?

When most parents think about custody disputes, they picture courtrooms, judges, and charismatic attorneys giving eloquent statements. However, many custody disputes are handled in private. It is generally a good idea to attempt a private negotiation before going to court for several reasons. Firstly, these private negotiations are much cheaper than full-blown custody trials. Secondly, they can be resolved much more quickly. This may be less stressful for the entire family – including the children. 

Mediation is perhaps the most common “alternative dispute resolution” strategy. This process involves a neutral “mediator” who will oversee the private negotiations. At the end of the process, this mediator will decide how the custody dispute should be resolved. As a neutral third party, the mediator takes into account the needs and priorities of all parties involved. This includes not only both parents but also the children. With all that said, parents are under no obligation to accept the decisions of a mediator – and they may proceed with litigation if this process fails. 

If mediation fails or parents simply never attempt alternative dispute resolution strategies, litigation may be the only remaining option. A custody hearing or trial occurs before a judge in a family court. Both parents will have a chance to tell their side of the story, and they may present various forms of evidence that support their claims. Witnesses can be cross-examined by both sets of lawyers, and evidence may be called into question. At the end of the trial, the judge will make a decision on how the dispute should be resolved. Although parents may have the right to appeal these decisions, a judgment is usually legally binding. 

Examples of Disputes Regarding Physical Custody

A dispute regarding physical custody may arise long after the divorce has been finalized. Parents who wish to modify existing physical custody must first establish that a major change in circumstance has occurred. For example, one parent may have suffered a serious disability, and they may be unable to care for the child. The parent may have placed the child in serious danger – perhaps by driving drunk or attempting suicide. Alternatively, the parent may have simply relocated, making the journey between both residences stressful and time-consuming for the children. These all represent potential changes in circumstances. 

The parent seeking to modify the arrangement generally shoulders the burden of proof. This means it is their responsibility to prove that these changes have occurred. For example, they may need to gather evidence that the other parent has committed a DUI, attempted suicide, left drug needles scattered around the home, or some other concerning act. If the parent cannot establish this change in circumstance, then the custody order cannot be modified.

Keep in mind that the burden of proof for civil cases is lower compared to criminal cases. In other words, it is easier to prove certain things in family law courts as opposed to criminal courts. For example, a parent may have escaped DUI charges due to some minor technicality in criminal courts. But the same issue may be revisited in family courts, and a family law judge may become convinced that the parent drove drunk with the child in their vehicle. 

Find a Qualified Child Custody Lawyer in Colorado

If you have been searching for a child custody lawyer in Colorado, look no further than the Law Office of Casey James Alexander, LLC. With our help, you can approach your custody dispute with a measure of confidence and efficiency. We know how distressing and emotional these disputes can be – and we approach each case with care and precision. Although an online article may provide basic guidance on this subject, you may receive much more accurate advice during a consultation with us. Book your meeting today to get started with an effective action plan. 

About the Author

Casey Alexander

  YOUR ATTORNEY CASEY ALEXANDER Founding Attorney Prior to becoming an attorney Casey served in the United States Navy.  Now he serves the people of Northern Colorado and advocates for their legal needs. Bar Admissions Colorado PROFESSIONAL AFFILIATIONS 01 Larimer County Bar ...


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