The Basics of Child Custody Laws in Colorado

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Unlike other states, Colorado’s child custody laws are much more balanced, treating the child not as another asset in a divorce, but as a living, breathing, human being that needs care and comfort during these trying times. Yes, the law is harsh, but Colorado’s courts are well aware that, in the context of child custody, tempering justice with compassion is the best option for all parties affected.

Experienced child custody attorneys answered some basic questions about the Centennial State’s child custody laws and how it affects both parents and child.

After Divorce Hearings, Who Gets Custody of the Child?

Unlike other states, child custody does not immediately fall into the hands of either parent. In fact, in Colorado, there are no set rules that dictate the automatic custody of children. Instead, judges in child custody hearings adhere to certain statutory factors prior to awarding custody of children to a parent, especially if the children in question are minors.

Can Parents File for Sole Custody, or is Joint Custody Required?

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Again, unlike some other places, the state of Colorado does not have the option for either sole or joint custody. Rather, Colorado applies a program called “parental responsibility”, which is a set of rules and regulations that both parents must follow. Parental Responsibility can either be joint, or primary, but either way, both parents have certain duties they need to fulfill to enjoy their child’s company.

Parental Responsibility is further divided into Residential Responsibility and Decision-Making Responsibility. A parent can only be considered for the role of sole decision-making responsibility if they are able to make major life decisions (i.e., education, medical, religious, and even extra-curricular activities) without consulting the other parent.

How Does Child Support Work in Colorado?

Child support in Colorado is paid for by both parents if they have joint parental responsibility. How much each parent pays is determined by a number of factors including, but not limited to, gross monthly incomes, expenses, and other overheads. While the time spent with the child is a factor in child custody hearings, it is not determinative of a parent’s support obligation.

Can I Refuse Visitation Rights if My Ex-Spouse Stops Paying Child Support?

Unlike other states, Colorado does not bar parents who don’t pay child support from seeing their children. Child support payments (or, in most cases, lack thereof) is a completely independent issue to a parent’s right to see their children.

Colorado’s Parenting Plan Concept

In the state of Colorado, couples who seek custody of their children after divorce are required to submit a Parenting Plan. The Parenting Plan is a basic guide to visitation times, schedules, holiday rights, etc. It’s a document that outlines each parent’s responsibilities, which means that both parties must agree to it. If couples cannot agree to a Parenting Plan, the court will take over and create one for the couple.

In the case of the latter, the court will decide based on what it believes to be the best interest of the child. Take note, as well, that in Colorado, courts do not decide on custody based on the gender of the parent, unlike some states which favor the mother over the father.

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