How Is Child Custody Determined?

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Colorado uses the term ‘parental responsibilities’ instead of child custody. Parental responsibilities include parenting time, which refers to the time you spend with your child, and decision-making responsibilities, which refer to the authority to make long-term decisions about your child’s life.

Parents often have the most control over parenting time and decision-making arrangements when they work together to reach an agreement. However, there are instances when this does not work out.

Who decides when parents cannot agree?

When parents cannot reach an agreement about parental responsibilities, a court must decide for them. Colorado courts will consider your wishes and the other parent’s wishes, but it will prioritize your child’s best interests.

How does a court determine a childs best interests?

The court can consider any factor relevant to your child’s best interests. When deciding on parenting time, a court will typically consider:

  • Your child’s wishes
  • Your child’s relationships with family members
  • Your child’s adjustment to home, school and the community
  • The mental and physical health of you, the other parent and your child
  • Each parent’s ability to support the relationship between the child and the other parent
  • Each parent’s history of involvement with your child
  • How far apart you and the parent live from each other
  • Any history of child abuse
  • Each parent’s ability to prioritize your child’s needs

When deciding on decision-making authority, the court may also consider if you and the other parent are able to make decisions together and if joint decision-making will help promote more frequent contact between each parent and your child. It may also consider each parent’s past pattern of involvement with decision-making for your child.

Any decision about parental responsibilities should prioritize your child’s best interests regardless of who is making the decision. However, understanding how a court may determine best interests can help you effectively advocate for your child’s needs.

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