How does child custody work in Colorado?

Colorado does not use the traditional term custody. Instead, the state refers to parental responsibility. This includes parenting time (physical responsibility) and decision-making abilities (legal responsibility).

Learn more about Colorado parental responsibility laws.

Types of custody

A parent with less than 90 overnights per year does not have primary parental responsibility. Both parents have joint parental responsibility if the overnights are equal.

Legal custody is the decision-making authority with regard to the child’s welfare. This includes health and educational decisions that affect the child’s well-being. The court can order:

  • Sole legal custody (one parent makes all decisions)
  • Shared responsibilities (parents make decisions together)
  • Split responsibilities (each parent has control over certain decisions).

A court will award joint legal custody if it serves the best interest of the child.

Factors in custody decisions

The court considers the best interest of the child in parental responsibility cases. Many factors influence the best interest standard and may include:

  • Each parent’s wishes
  • The child’s wishes depending on age
  • Whether the parents can successfully co-parent with minimal conflict
  • The child’s current adjustment to home, school and community

The state favors frequent contact with both parents and does not discriminate based on gender.

A judge also considers any matter that may impact the child’s physical safety or emotional development. This includes domestic violence, child abuse or neglect.

Courts prefer arrangements that:

  • Maintain a stable child’s home life
  • Reduce disruptions to school/community activities
  • Support relationships with people important to the child.

Colorado courts consider the child’s well-being the most important factor when determining parental responsibility.

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