How is child custody determined in the state of Colorado?

When couples with kids divorce in Colorado, the court must determine their parenting responsibilities, including parenting time and decision-making.

Gone are the days when Colorado family law courts would award sole or joint child custody. In most cases, the courts now allocate parental responsibilities and encourage people to co-parent their children. According to the Colorado Judicial Department, parental responsibilities include the decision-making authority for the children and parenting time. In order to help protect their parental rights, it is important for people to understand their responsibilities and how the court makes its determination.

Allocating decision-making authority

When brining up a child, there are a number of important decisions to be made. This includes choices about his or her health care, education, religion and extra-curricular activities. The court may award joint decision-making authority or, in some situations, it will give the primary responsibility to one parent or the other.

In order to make this important decision, the court will consider a number of factors. The Colorado Judicial Department points out that this includes each parent's prior involvement with the children, whether the parents will be able to cooperate and make choices regarding their children and if awarding shared decision-making will encourage ongoing parent-child relationships. The court will also take into account any history of child neglect, child abuse or spousal abuse.

Determining parenting time

With regards to custody arrangements, parenting time refers to the actual time that a child spends with each parent. Sometimes, children will spend equal time with both parents. In other situations, however, such as when parents live a significant distance apart, children may reside primarily with one parent and regularly visit the other.

In determining parenting time agreements, the court considers numerous factors to decide what is in the best interests of the child. These include the following:

  • Each parents' wishes
  • The child's wishes
  • How the child has adjusted to his or her home, community and school
  • The mental and physical health of both parents and the child
  • The distance between the parent's residences
  • Any history of spousal abuse, child abuse or child neglect

The court will also consider each parent's willingness to encourage a continuing relationship between his or her child and the child's other parent when making parenting time determinations. Each parent's ability to put their child's needs above their own in order to cooperate and make decisions together.

Working with an attorney

Although both parents generally want what is best for their children, it may be difficult for people in Colorado and elsewhere to reach agreements regarding parental responsibilities after a divorce. Therefore, it may be of benefit for parents who are considering divorce or who are involved in a child custody dispute to seek legal counsel. A lawyer may explain their options, negotiate on their behalf and guide them through the legal process.