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Child Custody Attorney in Colorado

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Custody (known in Colorado as "Allocation of Parental Responsibilities") refers to two major issues relating to children. These two issues are parenting time and decision making authority, and they are a common part of cases involving divorce, legal separation, annulment, paternity, or child support. To know if you are able to file for custody the first step is simple, if you have a child, you can file. For more on how to begin this process or even help addressing a child custody matter, our Colorado child custody lawyers at Jorgensen, Brownell & Pepin, P.C. can assist you with your family law case.

Call 720-809-8310 to request an initial review of your case.

Sole Custody vs. Joint Custody

One reason that the Colorado legislature created a statutory framework that no longer uses the term "custody" is to provide less of a sense that one parent has "won" or "lost" custody of the children. Colorado does not have "sole custody" or "joint custody." Most cases involving children result in some shared allocation of parental responsibilities between parents. A parenting time schedule for shared parenting time with each parent and joint decision making on major decisions for the children is the most common outcome in cases involving children. The idea of "sole custody" is often asked about, but allocation of parental responsibilities solely to one parent is usually limited to extreme cases of imminent threat of harm to a child or complete non-involvement of a parent.

Understanding Colorado's Child Custody Laws

Laws regarding child custody changed in 1999 from “custody” to “parental responsibilities.” The role, however, is the same as it was prior: Determining who the child will live with and which parent or guardian gets to make major decisions.

How is custody determined in Colorado?

Young girl in distress with her mother

When making an initial child custody determination, Colorado courts will consider the "best interests of the children" to determine what parenting time and role in decision making each parent will have.

There are no set rules on who will automatically get custody of the children. This means that gender is not factored into the decision and the mother is not automatically favored when it comes to obtaining custody. There are statutory factors that the court must consider in awarding parenting time and decision making authority to parents.

Common Arrangements for Child Custody

In every case, there are differences that need to be addressed. The court must weigh the benefits of a situation in which the child can be raised by both parents compared to one in which the child can remain in one place and not have to move from place to place. One of the most common situations is when one parent has sole physical custody while both parents have legal custody. The parent who does not have custody is granted visitation rights.

Factors in Child Custody Laws

  • A child’s preferences, if they are old enough to make a decision, and the preferences of each parent.
  • A child’s adjustments to a new community, school, and home life.
  • Parents’ ability to share responsibility and maintain positive communication/relationships.
  • The location of parents / guardians in relation to one another, as this can impact parenting time.
  • The nature of the relationships between a child and each parent, as well as other relatives or individuals who the child may come into contact with regularly.
  • The history of parents’ involvement in child’s life and indications of their ability to provide support and a positive home, and meet commitments.

Children's Wishes / Children's Choices on Custody

In Colorado, there is no set age (prior to the age of 18) for when a child can decide which parent to live with. As a child gets older and more mature, he or she may have more input on which parent they'll live with, and what parenting time with the other parent will be. However, the widely held belief that a child over the age of twelve gets to decide custody issues is a harmful myth. No minor child has an absolute say and the idea that they do can be harmful as forcing a child to make a choice can be seen as alienating the child from a parent.

A court will consider the child's wishes to the extent that the child is sufficiently mature to express their reasoned and independent preferences as to the parenting time schedule and to the degree that those expressed wishes are consistent with the child's best interests. However, the court will not ask to speak to the child directly, and parents should never take a child to court. The court will appoint a neutral professional to speak with the child, and parents and some collaterals, and make a recommendation to the court which would include, among other points, the child's desires.

Sole Decision-Making

The court needs to know how decisions about education, medical issues, religious upbringing and other specific issues related to your children will be made. Sometimes those can be shared between the parents, and sometimes one person should make the determinations. The Colorado legislature has recognized that co-parenting isn't possible in all cases, however, our statutes are written to strongly push toward that end. If you have a case where co-parenting really is not reasonable or feasible, you need a strong team to help explain to the court the intricacies of your special situation. Our legal team has years of experience and strong skills in helping you form and support these arguments.

For more information about Colorado's child custody laws, contact us at 720-809-8310 today.

Family Law FAQ

If you have a quick question about family law, this frequently asked questions list might have the answer. Please feel free to give it a quick review. If you have further questions please call (720) 809-8310. We look forward to seeing how we can help!
  • Q:Do I need to prove the reason for the divorce?

    A:You do not need to prove any grounds for divorce in Colorado. The Court will not ask you to describe why you are getting a divorce. The spouse filing for divorce just needs to tell the court that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” There is no need to prove that there was infidelity, abuse, or gross financial mismanagement in order to get a divorce, though those issues may impact some of the issues to be settled or determined in the divorce case.

  • Q:How is parenting time split by Colorado family law courts?

    A:The court, by default, assumes that a child benefits the most from spending time with each parent and that both parents should be able to participate in decision-making on behalf of the child equally. The Court orders specific parenting plans based on the best interests of the child, and the circumstances of the parties determines the best schedule.

  • Q:Do mothers get priority in child custody orders?

    A:Neither mothers nor fathers have priority in child custody cases. The Court uses the best interests of the child as a guide to make orders concerning the child. The Court prioritizes the child’s needs over the parents’ needs.

  • Q:What is marital property in a divorce?

    A:All assets and debts accumulated while married are presumed to be marital property. There are a few exceptions, including inheritances and gifts. However, even inheritances or gifts can become marital property if they are used in certain ways, such as purchasing a joint asset. During a divorce, the court will to divide all marital property equitably. Equitable distribution is based on what is found to be fair, not necessarily equal.

  • Q:How is paternity established?

    A:Paternity can be established in three ways in Colorado. First, paternity is automatically assigned to the man who is married to a woman when she gives birth unless he denies paternity at the time of birth. Second, paternity can be voluntarily assigned if both parents agree. Last, a court order can assign paternity, such as in a contentious divorce, after a paternity test and analysis of the child’s relationship with each possible father is conducted.

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Talking to Your Children About Divorce

If you and your spouse have made the difficult choice to get a divorce, one of the hardest steps will be to tell your children about this decision. Although it can be uncomfortable and frightening, it is necessary to help your children understand the complications so they can begin their healing process. Here are some tips on how to delicately address this conversation for the most positive outcome.

Talking to Your Kids About the Divorce Process

Have a Plan

You and your current spouse should agree to a plan on how to break the news to your children. In most circumstances, it is best not to divulge every detail, but give them enough information and leave opportunity to address concerns and answer questions.

Tell the Children Together

Before having the conversation, make sure you are on the same page about some of the basics that you can anticipate will come up in conversation, such as living situations, school, and vacations.

Do Not Blame Each Other

Make a rule that you will not blame the other parent for the dismantling of the marriage or disclose personal reasons for the divorce.

Give Them Support

Your children need your love and support, but they also need it from outside the home. If possible, bring their teachers and other support staff into the loop on what is happening at home. Additionally, provide plenty of space and time for them to spend with friends.

They are Loved

Reassure the children that both parents continue to love them deeply. Remind the children that both parents will continue to be active in their lives and are still their parents. Actively encourage the children to continue a strong relationship with the other parent.

Every child is unique and every custody battle will require its own factors to be considered. Make sure you are listening to their individual needs and helping them in the way only you, as their parent, know how. Additionally, make sure you are working with an experienced and competent child custody attorney who can answer your questions and ensure that the best interests of the children are made priority.

Additional Resources & Books for Talking to Your Kids & Teens About Divorce

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  • Weld County Bar
  • Boulder County Bar Associations
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  • NAELA Member
  • Colorado Trial Lawyers
  • Colorado Bar Association

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