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What Are the Differences Between Custody & Legal Guardianship?

The laws pertaining to childcare in Colorado involve the concepts of custody, legal guardianship, adoption, foster care and more. Custody and legal guardianship are similar in that they both grant someone rights in relation to the care of a child. However, they are fundamentally different on a legal level. Understanding Colorado’s complicated family law and childcare laws may take help from an attorney, especially during a divorce or separation.

What Is Legal Guardianship in Colorado?

Legal guardianship grants someone legal rights and responsibilities over a child. It gives someone the responsibility to care for the child until they reach the age of majority, which is 18 years old in Colorado. The parents of a child are automatically the child’s legal guardians, until and unless a court intervenes and says otherwise.

The matter of legal guardianship may arise if a minor child needs someone else to make his or her legal decisions. The courts may need to assign legal guardianship to someone else if the parents are unfit, if the parents pass away, or if the child does not have parents at home and needs a legal guardian. The courts will always look to the best interest of the child in deciding whether or not to grant legal guardianship to an adult.

If a child’s parents are still in the child’s life, their legal rights may remain intact even after a judge grants someone else legal guardianship. This is different from adoption, which severs the legal rights and responsibilities of a child’s biological parents. Legal guardianship can be temporary and only apply while a child needs someone other than his or her parents to make legal decisions, or it may be permanent.

child custody and legal guardianship Colorado

Legal Guardianship vs. Custody

Legal guardianship is different from custody in Colorado. Custody focuses on the parent-child relationship rather than granting childcare rights and responsibilities to a third party. Custody is an issue that comes up during a divorce case or legal separation in Colorado. It is the right of one or both parents to take physical care of a child and/or make his or her major decisions.

Legal guardianship, on the other hand, can arise with or without the divorce of the child’s parents. The goal of legal guardianship is to help children who are not capable of taking care of him or herself, not to assign parental responsibilities. This is the main difference between legal guardianship and legal custody.

How Does Child Custody in Colorado Work?

In every state, parents will have the opportunity to work out custody arrangements and parenting plans between the two parties, before the matter will go to family court to be decided by a judge. The law grants parents this opportunity to work together and compromise on an arrangement that will be best for the child. If two parents cannot agree on the terms of a custody arrangement, however, a judge will use several relevant factors to decide custody determinations for them.

  • The child’s interactions and relationship with either parent.
  • The willingness of either parent to care for the child.
  • The child’s establishment in his or her community.
  • The child’s home and school adjustments.
  • Whether one parent plans on relocating after a divorce.
  • Parental conduct during the marriage, such as substance abuse or domestic violence.

The main concern will always be a child’s best interest. Child custody is an extremely complicated matter during any divorce or child custody case in Colorado. If your case involves the legal guardianship of a child, grandparents’ visitation rights, paternity issues or other challenges, it can be even more difficult to work out the legalities of parental rights and responsibilities. Contact a child custody lawyer in Broomfield for assistance with your case. A lawyer will protect your rights and the rights of your child.

Colorado Child Custody Rights for Non-Biological Parents