Child Legal Representatives (CLRs)
Divorce and custody battles are difficult for the adults who choose to file but also take a toll on the children involved in the marriage. It is not uncommon for the court to appoint an attorney to work with the child and represent the child’s best interests during the proceedings. This is to help ensure that the child is not overlooked or used as a bargaining chip before, during, or after the ordeal.
According to section 14-10-116, C.R.S., the attorney must be licensed to practice law in Colorado. Statute also states the attorney may not be the same person appointed as the child and family investigator in order to ensure the attorney is fair and unbiased.
The attorney is responsible for offering recommendations to the court about allocation of parental responsibilities, parenting time, child support, and a variety of other issues that may arise. While making her recommendations, the attorney may take the child’s wishes into account but should not base the recommendations solely on what the child wants. The attorney should determine what would be in the best interest of the child even if that does not directly coincide with the child’s wishes.
The court places a significant amount of weight on the attorney’s recommendations when determining allocation of parental responsibilities and other issues.
In making these decisions concerning the parents and child, the court utilizes the guidelines laid out in section 14-10-124, C.R.S.. This piece of legislation describes how a court is to determine allocation of parenting time and allocation of decision-making responsibility.
The majority of the time the court recognizes the importance of allowing each parent to have contact with the child(ren). It is typically in the best interest of the child to encourage a strong, stable relationship with both parents. Unless the court finds that parenting time with one parent would put the child at risk of physical harm or would damage the child’s emotional development, both parents will usually be awarded fair parenting time.
Allocation of parenting time refers to the determination of when or if each parent will have physical custody of the child. When determining how to allocate parenting time, the court takes many factors into consideration including: the child’s wishes, the child’s relationship with both parents, interactions between both parents and the child, the child’s involvement in school and his/her academics, the mental and physical health of the child and parents, both parents’ past involvement with the child and the outcome of that involvement, and the physical proximity of the parents. The court will look at all of the factors in conjunction with the attorney’s recommendations to decide how to allocate parenting time between the two parents.
The court will also decide how much decision-making power each parent will have in regards to their child. This includes where the child will go to school, what extracurricular programs he will be involved in, and medical decisions. In allocating this responsibility, the court focuses on the parents’ ability to make joint decisions, both parents’ past involvement with the child and if that involvement fostered the child’s sense of morals and ethics, and how the responsibility will impact the child’s relationships with the parents.
Additionally, the court will issue an order stating which party must pay for the attorney’s services. One or both parties may be instructed to pay the attorney’s fees. If both of the parties are found to be indigent, then the costs will likely be paid by the state.
If you would like more information about the appointment of a child's representative, visit Colorado's Office of the Child's Representatives at http://www.coloradochildrep.org/.