Colorado Child Custody Questions

Colorado family law attorneys provide answers to frequently asked questions with regards to child custody in Colorado.

Who will get custody of our child?

There are not set rules on who will automatically get custody of the children. There are statutory factors that the court must consider in awarding any decision regarding minor children.

What is joint custody? What is sole custody?

Colorado does not have joint custody or sole custody. Colorado uses the term parental responsibility – which can either be joint or primary.  If you equally share in overnight visitation with the minor child, you have joint parental responsibility.  If a parent has less then 90 overnight visitations with the minor child, the other parent is considered to have primary parental responsibility.

Colorado also divides residential responsibility from decision-making responsibility. Sole decision-making responsibility occurs when a parent is able to make all major decisions (education, religious, extracurricular, and medical) regarding the minor child without consulting with the other parent.  Joint decision-making responsibility occurs when the parents have to share the responsibility of those decisions.

If both parents share custody does anyone pay child support?

Child support is determined based on gross monthly income and other expenses. Who has the majority of time with the child, while a factor, is not determinative of the support obligation.

Can a parent refuse to allow visitation if child support is not paid?

No. Child support payment or lack thereof is completely independent of a parent’s right to see his/her child.

When can my child decide which parent to live with?

In Colorado, there is not set age limit on when a child can decide which parent to live with. The court will consider the child’s wishes to the extent that the child is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to the parenting time schedule.

Do grandparents have custody and visitation rights?

Generally speaking, no. Third parties do not have visitation rights to the minor children unless an independent action to gain those rights is started.

What is a parenting plan, and do I need one?

A parenting plan is the plan that parents submit to the Court allocating parenting time with the minor child, holiday visitation, etc. It is a requirement as both parties need to know what terms are in place for visitation, decision making, tax exemptions, etc.

If my separation agreement includes custody/support can it be included in the divorce decree?

Yes, it should always be integrated.

When will child custody be decided?

Your final parenting time decisions will be determined by the court during Permanent Orders. It is possible to have Temporary Orders that allocate parenting time provisions, or the parties can agree to a parenting schedule.

When can I modify custody?

A parenting plan, including a parenting schedule, can be modified at any point whenever such an action would be in the best interest of the minor child. However, a substantial modification of parenting time can only be filed if it is shown that the child’s present environment may endanger the child’s physical health.

What if we cannot agree on a custody arrangement?

If you cannot mutually agree on a parenting schedule, the court will have to determine a schedule that it deems is in the best interest of the minor child.

How can I increase my chances at getting a larger custody agreement?

There are many factors that are used to determine a parenting visitation. It is recommended that you stay child focused and constantly ask the question, “Why is this in the best interest of my child?”

What is visitation?

Visitation is parenting time. It is when one parent gets to “visit” with the minor children.

Can a judge order supervised visitation or no visitation?

Yes, if the court finds that supervised or no visitation is necessary because a party is a danger either physically or emotionally to the minor child, it can be ordered.

Do Courts favor the mother over the father?

The courts are not allowed to be biased for one parent due to sex.

Can I collect my own evidence to use if my custody case goes to court?

Yes, however you will need to abide by the Rules of Evidence in introducing the proposed evidence.

Do I need to use a Guardian ad Litem/Custody Evaluator?

No, but in some cases their services are highly helpful.

Will my child need to appear in court?

Usually no. In fact, it is discouraged to have children involved in court proceedings.

What is the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act?

Colorado has a Uniform Child Abduction Prevention Act (UCAPA). It was put into place to try and protect the child and parent from the situation where one parent abducts a child unlawfully and refuses to return. The UCAPA gives the courts the authority to restrict parenting time if certain factors are met, issue warrants for arrests of an offending party, and ties in with the Hague Convention to secure the return of abducted children.