Call Today (303) 781-0322
Contact Us Today

Establishing Child Custody in Colorado

Colorado’s child custody laws are complex and can be confusing, especially when combined with a divorce or other family law matter. If you are unsure about Colorado’s child custody laws, read the following information for a brief explanation of:

  • How Colorado’s family courts determine custody;
  • The types of custody available in Colorado; and
  • The Colorado family law courts’ overall outlook on child custody and parenting

Colorado’s Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

Colorado no longer uses the term child custody. Instead, child custody is now the “allocation of parental responsibilities.” Colorado’s parental responsibilities include:

  • Who the child lives with;
  • Who makes their major life decisions; and
  • What, if any, parenting time takes place between the parents and the child

Courts can enter orders regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities between parents in various situations, including:

  • Divorce;
  • Parental separation;
  • Third party care situations; or
  • Paternity matters

The Child’s Best Interest

The court bases the allocation of parental responsibilities on the best interest of the child standard. In any case, the court can also assess the parents’, and the child’s wishes, depending on the child’s age and maturity.  When examining the best interest of the child, the court looks to:

  • The child’s health and safety;
  • The child’s emotional and developmental needs;
  • Each parent’s ability to parent the child;
  • The stability of the parent’s homes; 
  • Each parent’s time commitment to and involvement with the child;
  • Any history of domestic violence; and
  • Other factors set forth in C.R.S. 14-10-124

Colorado does not discriminate or show bias towards either parent due to gender, career, or income.

Types of Parental Responsibilities in Colorado

Colorado statute delineates two core aspects of parental responsibilities: physical care and decision-making. Physical care, generally called “parenting time,” relates to which parent has the child and when.  In some situations one parent will have primary residential custody and the other parent will have parenting time.   In other situations, the parents might share equal parenting time.  Your schedule with the child will depend on the circumstances in your case and whether you are able to agree on a schedule with the other parent or whether the court will decide. 

Decision-making responsibility is the legal right to make major decisions regarding a child’s:

  • Education;
  • Religion;
  • Extracurricular activities; and
  • Medical care. Parents may share decision-making responsibility, or one parent alone may have decision-making responsibility. 

Courts generally award joint decision-making responsibility to parents who:

  • Cooperate and make joint decisions;
  • Foster a mutually supportive environment;
  • Work together to provide a positive and nourishing relationship with their child; and
  • Facilitate contact between the child and other parent

The court does not always order joint physical and decision-making custody together. There can be instances in which the parents might share equal time, but the  court may find it to not be in the best interest of the child for there to be joint decision-making.  Again, each case is different.

Colorado Encourages Shared Parenting

Colorado encourages co-parenting and tries to allow parents the freedom to make their parenting schedules when possible. In Colorado, the court often looks at awarding equal time and shared responsibilities, though might not in some of the following circumstances:

  • One parent requests less or no time;
  • One parent is unfit;
  • One parent’s working schedule;
  • The child is a teenager and makes their wishes known; 
  • There is a geographical distance between the parents; or
  • There are safety concerns

Special events or days may also be part of a parenting time schedule, including holidays, weekends, school breaks, and birthdays. If you would like to know more about parenting time, exceptions to parenting time, or the allocation of parental responsibilities, call Plog & Stein, P.C. With more than seventy years of combined legal experience, our family law attorneys have the skills and resources necessary to handle even the most complex child custody cases while offering you sound advice to protect and prepare for your future.

Author Photo

Stephen Plog, co-founder of Plog & Stein, P.C. in 1999, is a dedicated family law attorney with almost two decades of expertise in Denver. Focused exclusively on family law since 2001, he excels in both intricate legal writing and courtroom litigation, having navigated cases in all Denver metropolitan area District Courts. Steve’s comprehensive background, including a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a law degree from Quinnipiac University School of Law, underscores his commitment to providing insightful and personalized representation in family law matters.