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Factors Considered for the Best Interests of a Child in Colorado

Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors.

Colorado has laws in place to put your child's best interests first when it comes to custody and parenting time plans. In a legal sense, a child’s "best interests" often include keeping their home life, school, and schedule as normal as possible. It also focuses on a child having a loving and supportive relationship with both parents after divorce.

While sometimes referred to as the “best interests of the child test," this process is not a written test that parents take. Instead, the Colorado courts will question both parents (and in some cases the child) to determine if one or both parents can offer the child a happy, safe home. Most judges want a child to see both parents 50/50. The “test” considers various factors to determine if one parent should have less custody, or if a 50/50 split would be successful for the child’s happiness.

Colorado Statutes and Requirements

The courts will consider the statutes and factors outlined in the table below during a child custody hearing:

Statutes

Colorado Revised Statutes Article 14: Domestic Matters lists the relevant laws about a child’s best interests:

Factors Considered by the Courts

The law looks at a variety of factors when considering a child custody plan:

  • Both parent’s wishes;
  • The child’s wishes (if they are considered mature enough to offer their opinion – often age 12 or older);
  • The relationships between parents, siblings, extended family, and parents’ significant others;
  • The home, school, and community the child is accustomed to;
  • The mental and physical health of both parents and the child (note: disability is not a legal reason to deny parenting time);
  • The parents’ behavior toward each other – namely, the ability to cooperate and encourage positive relationships between the child and other parent;
  • The parents’ behavior in the past – namely, spending time with the child, keeping commitments, personal values and supporting the child and other parent;
  • The distance between both parents' homes;
  • Each parent’s willingness to put their child’s best interests first;
  • The ability of each parent to make decisions together to benefit the child; and
  • What type of custody plan would offer the most time with each parent.

Abuse in Child Custody Cases

The law will not tolerate abuse by any parent or guardian. You have the right to defend the best interests of a child by:

  • Protecting a child from seeing abusive actions;
  • Protecting yourself and your child from suffering abuse; and
  • Leaving the house or taking a child from the other parent's home due to abuse or domestic violence (Section 14-10-124(4)(c)).

The courts will not consider protection from abuse as “being uncooperative” with the abusive parent, even if the judge said both parents must cooperate and obey the parenting schedule. An abusive situation would likely cause the custody decision to be re-analyzed in family courts.

Factors the Courts Cannot Consider

There are legal protections in place for each parent during custody hearings. It protects their biological rights, lifestyle, and choices and makes it is illegal for the courts to hold these factors against either parent:

  • Lifestyle factors, including income, salary, sexual orientation, gender identity, adultery, job, being in therapy, religion, or education level;
  • Gender – the courts will not give full custody to a mother because of the old belief that mothers are nurturing and naturally better parents (Section 14-10-124(3)); and
  • Requests for genetic testing, often called “paternity testing,” if one parent wants to be sure the child is biologically their own (Section 14-10-124(3.5)).

Non-Biological Custody Options

The courts tend to give biological parents as much custody as possible. In some cases, they may consider parenting time rights for a non-biological adult if it is in the child's best interests. If you are a stepparent, ex-stepparent, ex-significant other, non-biological adult who helped raise the child, grandparent, or other family member, you can petition for custody rights, adoption, or parenting time with the help of an attorney.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Best Interest Laws Are There to Protect Minors

Colorado law will always see a child under 18 years old as a minor who needs to have their best interests protected. These laws and the custody hearing process are used to gather an accurate look at the lifestyle each parent will provide and prevent unstable living environments before they occur. While the process can feel scary or unfair, it is in place to protect both parents’ rights to see their child. The process is there to help minors who may not be able to make these significant decisions on their own.

What to Expect After Discussing Best Interest Factors

After these discussions occur, the judge will decide on the custody arrangement or order both parents to try to come to an agreement using mediation (Section 13-22-311). Depending on the child’s best interests, both parents may have 50/50 custody, or a parent may be limited to weekends, one or two nights, or supervised visitation. In some cases, parental rights may be given away or legally taken away – a process called termination of parental rights.

If your circumstances change, you and your attorney can suggest a new plan to the other parent or use mediation to find an agreement. If you cannot find a good compromise, a judge can meet with everyone to determine a new parenting time plan that works well for both parents and their new schedules.

Research the Law

Colorado Child Custody Process: Related Resources

Ask the Hard Questions Before You Get to Court

You may have questions about your income, mental health, lifestyle, or anything else that might affect your chances of custody. A child custody attorney can help you understand how Colorado courts may view these factors and how to present your concerns in the best light. You never need to face a child custody hearing alone. Having the support of an attorney can help the judge hear your side of the story.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.