“I need to get legal custody of my children, but we aren’t married. How do I do that?” We get this question frequently. The name of the proceeding is a real mouth full: Allocation of Parental Responsibilities or “APR.” Colorado courts now speak of “decision making” and “parenting time,” which together make up what we formerly called “custody.”
If you feel comfortable with forms, and advocating for yourself in front of a Judge, you can go through this without an attorney. The forms are available at the County Courthouse for $20-25, or for free online at www.courts.state.co.us/Forms/Index.cfm. But many people are overwhelmed by the forms, facing the possibility of an attorney on the other side, and/or fear they cannot speak well for themselves in front of the Judge. If that is you, you should get an attorney. Mistakes in such cases can lead to heartbreaking court decisions. Even though “permanent orders” can be later modified, there are a lot of rules to it, and the process takes time and money.
If you both can reach an agreement, it is tremendously beneficial to the children, to both of you, and to your respective finances. Even if you reach an agreement, however, consult an attorney about to insure that you have included all potential issues, filed all necessary paperwork, and the written version accurately reflects your agreement.
Above all, please remember that conflict between parents or parental figures has been shown over and over again to be highly traumatizing to the children and highly damaging to the relationship between the children and the parents. Imagine that every harsh word and every thing done in anger is like an arrow tipped with poison. Every one of those arrows has to pass through the hearts of each one of your children before it gets to the other parent whether or not you believe the children are paying attention to your fights. They sense the tension and conflict, and that is psychological poison to them.
Remember, children interpret things in ways that often seem strange to adults.
- “If dad is worthless, and I come from dad, then I’m worthless too.”
- “If only I was better and not getting into trouble all the time, mom and dad would be happy.”
- “Everything would be fine if I didn’t exist.”
No amount of anger, frustration, or, worse, vengeance is worth a child’s heart or a child’s life. Put what is truly best for your children first and you will both have the ultimate victory.
We can help you with any and all aspects of this process. Please contact us to set up an appointment to see how we can help you get through this and minimize the traumatic effects on your children.