Colorado law requires the court to make parenting decisions based on the best interest of the child. A parent has a constitutional right to reasonable parenting time with a child unless the court is shown clear and convincing evidence that unrestricted parenting time would pose a physical danger to the child or would substantially impair his / her longtime emotionally or psychologically.
It is important to note that reasonable parenting time does not mean equal parenting time. There is no set age in Colorado law where a child has a right to decide which parent he / she wishes to live with most of the time. However, the wishes of the child are one factor in this decision. The weight a child’s wishes may count depends on the particular judge making the decision.
Often the older a teen is, the more weight a judge will place on his or her wishes. Exceptions may lie in circumstances where one parents lax requirements or discipline may not be in the child’s best interest [such as no curfew, no expectation of homework, permissive attitudes towards alcohol/drug use by the teen, etc]. Also, a judge may feel that a teen’s judgment or wishes is clouded by the influence of the other parent [the term ‘alienation’ is often used for this type of influence].
A judge will usually refuse to have a child of any age, even a teen, testify in court. Most judges also refuse to speak to a teen in their private chambers (or office). This is not because no one cares how a child or teen feels about the situation. It is because most judges feel that the professionals they appoint as Child Family Investigators or Parental Responsibilities Evaluators are better qualified to speak to minors sensitively about their preferences, and that these conversations are better conducted away from the court house.