Colorado Child Custody

Colorado Child Custody

Colorado family law uses the term “parental responsibility” instead of custody. Parental responsibility here also includes visitation rights (called “parenting time”). In the state of Colorado, the courts decide parental responsibility on several factors. This includes a parent’s ability to care for his/her child, arrangements the parents have made together, and the child’s own preferences. Yet above all, it’s the child’s best interests that matters most. The courts do not award parental responsibilities based on gender in Colorado child custody cases.

Judges in Colorado prefer that parents share the parental responsibilities of making important decisions, especially around issues such as education and upbringing. These issues are usually referred to as legal custody. However, 50/50 or joint custody can be difficult to implement in certain cases, especially those where parents disagree on major issues. Often, one parent has physical custody of a child, while the other receives visitation rights/parenting time. While joint custody is a rising trend, sole custody is still more common. In cases where parents cannot agree on a parenting time plan, a judge must make a ruling on how to split parental responsibility.

Defining A Child’s Best Interests

The main factors that determine the division of parental responsibilities depend on the best interests of the child. These include, among others:

  • The physical and emotional needs of the child
  • The child’s relationship to their parents and the rest of the household
  • Each parent’s financial and emotional ability to provide for their child
  • Geographical location between parents
  • Cultural and religious considerations
  • The child’s (or children’s) own wishes

There is no set age for when children’s wishes take on more weight. But, the more mature and convincing their argument is, the more likely it becomes that their choice of parent will be taken into consideration. Judges decide this on a case-by-case basis, and base their final decision on a combination of all factors.

Non-Custodial Parent & Grandparent Visitation Rights

In Colorado, “parenting time” does not extend only to parents, but may extend to non-parental custodial guardians (step-parents) and grandparents as well. Colorado awards parental responsibility to non-biological (de-facto) parents if the biological parents are not a viable option. Grandparents also have the right to spend time with their grandchildren under Colorado child custody law. However, there are limits on how much they can interfere in a child’s upbringing – it is not within their rights to restrict the rights of the child’s parents.

What Is An Unfit Parent

Colorado is a state which prefers joint or 50/50 parenting. To achieve full custody in such a state, you must almost always prove to the courts that the other parent poses a risk to your child. An unfit parent, in this case, is a parent who is a proven danger to a child. This can either be due to the indirect effects of their current behavior, or due to past crimes related to physical and/or sexual violence.

Any significant and proven history of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse from the other parent towards your child(ren) is grounds for the Colorado courts to award you sole custody.

To protect your child from an unfit parent, seek legal help. After that, the first step is usually to file a complaint for allocation of parental responsibility. You must also create and file a parenting plan suggesting full custody, which includes both legal and physical custody (determining that you control the upbringing and living situation of your child). In normal cases, parenting plan disputes must go through mediation before they are brought before the court. If you can prove that the other parent was abusive, though, you may take the parenting plan directly to the judge.

Seeking Legal Help For Custody Issues

As overwhelming as the whole process can be, it’s simplified if you think of it in this way: Family law in Colorado is meant to help separating couples distribute parental responsibilities between themselves. The ideal outcome is an arrangement that allows both parents to play significant roles in the upbringing of their children. Unfortunately, things are not always ideal, and it’s important to seek legal representation to avoid losing your rights as a parent.

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