What are the basics of child custody in Colorado?

Divorced parents in Colorado must work together for the sake of their children. It’s important to understand how child custody works and what to expect.

Colorado has a preference for joint custody

The state has a preference for joint custody instead of awarding sole custody to one parent. The court bases decisions on what’s considered in the child’s best interests. It’s the belief that the child will always benefit the most from having both parents equally involved in their life. With joint custody, both parents share in making decisions on the child’s medical, educational, religious and general welfare needs.

However, if there is an issue of one parent being found unfit, the court will award sole custody to the other parent. Factors that can determine if the child would benefit more from sole custody include a history of abuse or neglect or substance abuse.

Child custody is known as “parental responsibility” in Colorado.

Parents can petition for parental responsibility through the court by filing either separately or jointly. If they agree on all the matters, they can jointly file the Petition for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities. If one parent files separately, they can file the petition on their own or with a lawyer’s help.

If the child is old enough, the court will consider their wishes when deciding child custody cases.

Parenting classes are required

While parents are going through a divorce, the state requires them to attend parenting classes. If the children are minors, parenting classes are ordered to help the former spouses to learn valuable tools for how to best help their children cope with the divorce. The classes are required and not optional.

Filing a parenting plan

The court requires a parenting plan to be filed that explains how the parents plan on sharing parenting time with their children. If there is an agreement, parents can file the document jointly. If they cannot reach an agreement, it’s possible to file separately.