Focusing on the Children: Best Interests and a Parent’s Wishes

By: Brenda L. Storey, Esq. & Danielle C. Davis, Esq.

You love your kids and you always want what is best for them. But sometimes it can be hard to separate your own wants and desires for them from what is really in your children’s best interests. This is especially true in the context of any litigation about parental responsibilities. Clients find themselves in a stressful – and often frightening – legal battle, where the future of their involvement in their children’s lives is uncertain. And this stress and fear can cause parents to focus on their own wishes regarding the legal outcome of the case, rather than on their children’s needs.

Clients will sometimes come to our office and say things like, “I deserve 50/50 parenting time with my child!” or “I want sole custody!” However, it is important to remember that the Court must always act in the “best interests of the child,” and that this might have very little to do with what a parent wants. Children have the right to a relationship with both of their parents, and depending on the age, circumstances, and psychological needs of the child, a 50/50 parenting time arrangement may cause more harm than good.

Under Colorado law, the Court is directed to use the “best interests of the child” standard when deciding on issues like parenting time and decision-making authority. And, while the Court may consider any information that is deemed relevant, the law provides specific factors that the Judge must consider.  Notably, only one of these factors contemplates the respective wishes of the parents. This is because the focus is on the children, not the parents. And this is as it should be.

However, when a parent requests a parenting schedule that is self-focused, ignorant of the child’s needs, too aggressive, or “fair,” that one statutory factor takes on more relevance. Now, there is proof of a parent who is acting and thinking contrary to what should be their primary focus; the child’s needs, and the child’s best interests. And, because the ability of each parent to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs is also to be considered by the Court, these kinds of desires by a parent carry even greater weight.

Going through a divorce is tough, but when a parent focuses on what is truly best for their child – and not on anyone else’s needs or their own desires – it becomes “easier.” By prioritizing your child’s needs ahead of your own, you will help to ensure that they have a voice in the proceedings and will benefit from a parenting plan that serves their best interests.