The modern trend in child custody cases throughout the United States is to award divorcing parents with 50-50 legal custody, also known as "joint legal custody." Legal custody, in this context, refers to the decision-making authority of both parents to direct important matters relating to the upbringing of their children. For example, co-parents with 50-50 custody will need to agree on matters of schooling, religion, medical care and other parenting concerns.
This is the trend as it applies to legal custody. When it comes to physical custody, Colorado parents may find that family court judges are more inclined to award physical custody -- i.e., the parent the child lives with -- to just one parent. If parents can agree outside of court to split physical custody 50-50, a judge is likely to go along with the parent's wishes. However, if the parents cannot agree on this issue, the judge is more likely to select only one parent to receive physical custody.
Here are a few follow-up questions that divorcing Colorado parents may have in response to the above answer:
Is the mother or father more likely to receive physical child custody?
Colorado courts will be gender neutral in deciding if the mother or father should receive physical child custody. Instead, courts will look to determine which parent served as the "primary caretaker." It doesn't matter whether it was the mother or father who performed the vast majority of childcare duties. In most cases, courts will side with the primary caretaker when it comes to making decisions on who will have physical custody.
Can I seek sole legal and physical custody of my children?
Courts will be reluctant to provide only one parent with sole legal and physical custody. However, these circumstances are not unheard of -- particularly if one parent physically, emotionally or sexually abused the child -- or if the child bore witness to one parent's infliction of domestic violence against the other parent.
Ultimately, courts will do everything possible to safeguard the best interests of the child. Usually, giving shared legal custody to the parents is in the best interests of the child, but if one parent has proved him- or herself to be unfit, a Colorado court may deny that parent his or her parental rights.
Do you have more questions about Colorado child custody cases?
The more divorcing parents understand about Colorado child custody laws, the better they'll be able to navigate their child custody disagreements both inside and outside of a Colorado family law courtroom.