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Colorado Child Custody Laws

In 1999, Colorado switched from calling child custody by its traditional name of “custody” and instead now calls it “parental responsibilities.” The parental responsibilities are the same: deciding who the child lives with, who gets to make major decisions (such as educational or health decisions), and what “parenting time” or visitation will be for the non-custodial parent and possibly grandparents.

The family court determines parental responsibilities based on the best interests of the child standard. This means the judge considers many factors in determining what is best for the child, including the parents’ wishes, the child’s wishes, the emotional bonds between parents, and how hard a time the child would have adjusting to a new neighborhood or school. Neither parent is considered a better parent because of their gender -- that is, moms aren’t presumed to be the best parents.

The following table outlines the main parts of the child custody laws in Colorado.

Code Sections Colorado Revised Statutes Sections 14-10-123 to 14-10-132: Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act and 14-13-101 to 14-13-403: Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act
Year Uniform Child Custody Act Adopted Colorado adopted the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA) in 1973.
Joint Custody Typically, judges in Colorado order parents to share legal custody or have joint legal custody (called joint parental responsibilities). This means both parents share responsibility for the major life decisions for the child, such as health and educational decisions.

However, the 50/50 split of joint physical custody has at times been found difficult to implement, especially when the parents live in different states. Therefore, often one parent has the sole physical custody or primary parental responsibilities with the child, while the other parent has visitation or parenting time. But, the sharing of time with your child will be based on the unique circumstances or your case.

Sole physical and legal custody or parental responsbilities is rare, but could be granted in the case of physical, sexual, or severe emotional abuse of the child or if the child witnessed serious domestic violence against one of the parents. Domestic violence must only be proven by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not), a lower standard than the criminal case beyond a reasonable doubt.
Grandparent Visitation Rights Colorado law recognizes a grandparent’s right to visitation with his or her grandchild. However, an important grandparent visitation Supreme Court case, Troxel v. Granville, did limit what states can provide grandparents as the state can’t limit the rights of parents to raise their children.
Child’s Wishes A child’s own wishes are considered in making a child custody determination in Colorado. The judge will listen to the child if the child is mature enough to have an independent opinion. Unlike many states, there’s no age at which the judge must listen to the child’s wishes. Also, the court makes the ultimate decision as to where a child lives, not the child.

Note: State laws change regularly. It’s important to verify the laws you’re researching by conducting your own legal research or consulting an experienced Colorado family law attorney.

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