Guide to Child Custody in Colorado

January 5, 2021

If you are considering divorce, or have made the decision to divorce, one of your most important concerns may surround how much time you will have with your children after a divorce is finalized. You may feel overwhelmed starting the process of determining child custody in Colorado and unsure of your next steps. The state of Colorado handles child custody and visitation matters differently than other states, and in order to ensure your parental rights remain protected, contact an experienced family law attorney at Johnson Law Group at (720) 463-4333 or through Text-to-Chat at (720) 730-4558 today.

Best Interest of the Child

It is important to understand that above all else, the state of Colorado will base their decisions regarding child custody on what they consider to be the “best interest of the child” under Colorado Revised Statute Section 14-10-124. While the best interest of the child may appear to be a subjective standard, the court will look to the following factors to make their decisions regarding child custody in Colorado:

 

  • The wishes of the parents
  • The wishes of the child (if the child is mature enough to express independent preferences and reasoning)
  • The relationships that currently exist among family members
  • The ability of the child to adjust to their home, school, and outside activities
  • The mental and physical health of all family members involved in the child’s life, including the child
  • The ability of all parties to encourage a relationship and contact with the other parent (except in cases of abuse or neglect)
  • The prior involvement of each parent in the life of the child prior to the divorce
  • The distance between the homes of each parent
  • Whether or not the parents can make joint decisions and cooperate together
  • Whether or not the parents have exhibited an ability to make joint decisions and cooperate together to provide a positive environment for the child
  • Whether or not having joint decision-making authority for both parents would be more beneficial for the child

 

Children have a right to an emotionally, mentally, and physically safe environment. Make sure as you go through the divorce process that you take this into consideration when speaking of the child’s other parent, and how you interact with the other parent. The more amicable and cooperative you are with the other parent, the more likely it is that a judge will afford you a substantial amount of child custody in Colorado.

Legal Terminology Regarding Child Custody in Colorado

Unlike other states, Colorado does not use the terminology “joint” or “sole” custody. Rather, Colorado uses the legal term “parental responsibility” to describe both primary or joint custody among parents. If one parent has less than 90 overnight visits with their child over the course of a year, the courts in Colorado will consider the other parent to have primary parental custody. If both parents have more than that amount of time with their minor child, the courts in Colorado will consider the parents to have joint parental custody.

Physical Custody

Physical custody in the state of Colorado refers to the time that a child is physically present with a parent.

Legal Custody

Legal custody in the state of Colorado refers to a parent’s ability and authority to make substantial decisions regarding the child’s environment and welfare. These types of decisions can include education, religion, or health-related decisions.

Determination of Child Custody

After a court examines all of the evidence and testimony, they may order primary or joint parental responsibility with respect to both physical and legal custody. Along with examining the best interest of the child, the court will specifically look at the following areas of a child’s life in order to make a determination regarding parental responsibility:

 

  • The health and safety of the child when in the physical custody of each parent (It is important to note that under Colorado Revised Statute Section 14-10-124(4)(a), a judge has the legal right to require supervised parenting time, or deny contact with a child entirely if there is evidence of domestic violence, child neglect, or child abuse.)
  • The emotional and psychological needs of a child
  • The developmental needs of a child
  • The ability of a parent to facilitate and allow the child to interact with the other parent
  • The best scenario for stability in a child’s life with respect to relationships, school, and extra-curricular or community activities

 

If you are considering a divorce in the state of Colorado, contact an experienced family law attorney at Johnson Law Group to help understand all of your legal rights with respect to your child.

Answers to Common Questions Regarding Child Custody in Colorado

The following are some answers to commonly asked questions regarding child custody in the state of Colorado.

 

  • Can a child decide which parent they want to live with?

While there is no set age limit on when a child can express his or her wishes regarding custody and visitation, the court will look to the maturity of the child and take their opinion into account under certain circumstances.

  • Will grandparents automatically have custody rights?

No. Any third-party other than a parent does not automatically have legal custody rights.

  • When will child custody and visitation be determined?

The final determination will be at the end of your divorce. However, you may have the legal right to create a Temporary Order to allocate and determine parenting time before the finalization of your divorce.

The court will take into account all of the information provided and create a parenting plan regarding child custody and visitation they have determined to be in the best interest of the child.

  • Can a parent ever modify custody in the state of Colorado?

Yes. Anytime there is a substantial change to the emotional, physical, academic, or other significant needs of a child, a parent can request a modification to a custody order in order to ensure the best interest of the child.

  • Will a child need to testify in court?

            In most cases, a child will not need to appear in court regarding any legal matter.

Contact an Experienced Family Law Attorney Today

If you are concerned about ensuring your parental rights remain protected during the divorce process, contact an experienced family law attorney at Johnson Law Group at (720) 463-4333 or through Text-to-Chat at (720) 730-4558 today. We would welcome the opportunity to visit with you about our child custody rights in Colorado and how to gain the most amount of visitation with your child under the law.

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