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A Look at How Colorado Handles Child Custody

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Category: Divorce | Family Law | Child Custody | Child Support

A Look at How Colorado Handles Child Custody

Divorce is inherently stressful – dividing assets, rewriting wills, and adjusting to a new living situation are all emotionally draining. But if you are getting a divorce and have children, the process can be downright traumatic.


Children may not be emotionally equipped to handle such a big life change, so it’s important that each parent does everything possible to ensure their children are happy, comfortable, and cared for.


A big part of that relates to custody. What will your children’s life look like after the divorce is settled? Who will get custody, and how much stress will this process cause you and your family?


Since 1999, Colorado has referred to child custody as “parental responsibilities.” The major issues of parental responsibilities include where the child will live, visitation, and who get to make major decisions affecting the child’s health and education.


In every case, a judge will rule based on the best interests of the child. Judges consider the following before making their decisions:


  • The wishes of the parents
  • The child’s opinions (if the judge believes the child is old and/or mature enough to properly form his or her opinions)
  • The child’s living situation prior to the divorce
  • Possible changes in schooling or neighborhood
  • If any physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, substance abuse, or violence had been present in the home

The judge will not make his or her decision based on the sex of either parent.


Let’s look at the specific issues to resolve.


Greenwood Village Child Custody Lawyer

Physical Custody. There are different kinds of parental responsibility agreements that a judge can rule on in court. The most common decision concerns physical custody, or where the child will live. Splitting physical custody 50/50 is not always easy or possible, especially if each parent lives in different towns or states.


Usually, one parent will be granted sole physical custody, or primary parental responsibilities. The other parent is then allowed visitation rights or parenting time. Visitation rights allow the parent to visit on certain weekends, holidays, and so on. This is where the judge’s assessment of the parents’ relationship to the child comes into play.


Legal Custody. The next major ruling a judge must make concerns legal custody, or who has the responsibility of making major decisions for the child. This custody is easier to split 50/50, so judges aim to give joint legal custody to both parents. If a judge feels this arrangement is not in the child’s best interest, they will transfer sole legal custody to one parent. Judges rarely grant sole legal parental responsibility.


Joint legal custody means parents have to discuss and make major decisions together. These decisions could include the child’s education, religion, healthcare, or housing. If one parent ignores this ruling and solely makes decisions on behalf of the child, he or she could be found in contempt of court.


Grandparents’ Rights. Colorado recognizes the right for a grandparent to see their grandchild, but court-ruled rights are limited since they are considered a third party. Grandparents, step-parents, and third parties who have had a hand in raising the child unfortunately cannot be given visitation unless the third party has been physically caring for the child for the six months immediately before the divorce proceedings were filed.


Centennial Child Custody Attorney

Child Support. Both parents will be responsible for providing child support. A judge typically calculates child support by combining the parents’ gross incomes, taking a percentage (usually 20% for the first child, lower for second, third, and so on), and splitting the amount between both parents. The following factors are also considered:


  • The financial situation of the child
  • The financial situation of each parent
  • If the child’s living situation will change due to the dissolution of marriage
  • The physical, emotional, and educational needs of the child

Parents must pay child support until the child is 19, 21 (if still attending high school), or indefinitely (if the child has a physical or mental disability which prevents them from himself.) Child support is intended to cover the child’s basic needs, health insurance, medical expenses, and education.


Modifications. Parental responsibilities and child support rulings can be modified at any time, but specific circumstances must be present. If a parent loses their source of income or changes his or her living situation, he or she should notify the court as soon as possible. Court proceedings can take time, and the parent does not want to be found in contempt of court for failing to pay his or her child support.


When disagreements get messy and uncomfortable, you may need an experienced professional to fight for your rights to proper parental responsibilities and child support payments. A Colorado family lawyer and mediator can help to clear up confusing legal issues and smooth out disagreements. Learn what your options are by contacting us today and setting up a free consultation.


About the Author:


Vernon Ready is an award-winning Colorado lawyer with an in-depth understanding of all areas of family law, estate planning, and personal injury. His energetic and aggressive advocacy approach allow him to successfully navigate complex cases, including high asset divorce and complicated custody issues. During his time at the University of Colorado Law School, Ready won numerous awards for his trial advocacy skills. Since being admitted to practice in 2009, Ready has become well-known throughout Denver and the state for the passionate defense of his clients and his unparalleled understanding of the law.