Allocation of Parental Responsibilities

Allocation of Parental Responsibilities - For the Sake of Colorado's Children of Divorce

Allocation of parental responsibilities is the legal term in Colorado that defines traditional roles of parenting when two unmarried people share a child. Allocation of parental responsibilities (APR) is what is used in a divorce that involved children or parents who were never married. APR is used to determine:

  • Parenting time or visitation
  • Decision making
  • Child support

Under Colorado family law, every effort is made to keep both parents involved as much as possible, in the best interest of the child. It is very rare for Colorado family courts to intervene on couples who can manage their own parenting time and decision-making responsibilities. Under the eyes of the law, no parent is more important than the other, and only in extreme circumstances will either visitation or decision-making rights be revoked.

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Parental Rights

Each parent of a child has inherent rights that are protected by the law, regardless of circumstance or designation of parental responsibilities. These rights include:

  • Parenting time
  • Decision-making ability
  • Right to discipline the child
  • Right to manage and control the child’s earnings, income, and property
  • Right to have the child bear the parent’s name
  • Right to prevent adoption without parental consent

Parental Responsibilities

Parenting is a reciprocal relationship, because children are not property, but are living, breathing human beings who require nurture, love, and care. In addition to having rights as a parent, each parent also has responsibilities in raising the child. Having custody, or parenting time, does not simply include the physical location of the child, but requires a certain degree of care. Some responsibilities that a parent has to the child include (but are not limited to):

  • Providing a safe living environment for the child.
    • Utilities
    • Safe, clean living space
    • Their own bed in a bedroom with a window and door.
  • Medical treatment.
  • Educating the child.
  • Religious exposure.
  • Attentive care (or a third-party caretaker in the parent’s absence).
  • Providing discipline.
  • Feeding and clothing the child.
  • Keeping the child reasonably safe from harm.
  • Protecting the child from abuse, neglect, exploitation.
  • Providing a safe place to play.
  • Allowing child ownership over their own body.
  • Allowing the involvement of both parents.

Parents do not have absolute power over their children under federal law and are subject to criminal punishment for violating their child’s rights by abandoning, abusing, exploiting, or neglecting their child.

“Kelli knows her stuff. I had a brutal divorce with heartbreaking things happening, and Kelli got me and my little girl out safely to the other side. We had a relocation, heated custody issues, a child & family investigator, CPS, the police, and therapists involved-- but none of it would have turned out ok without Kelli's guidance and wisdom in knowing the legal proceedings for how it all works together and how to be prepared in the most professional manner. She was an invaluable part of helping me transition from a rock and a hard place to freedom and peace. I could not recommend her more highly!”

~ K.R.

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For a family lawyer who puts your family first, contact kelli j. Malcolm

The children of Colorado deserve loving, nurturing homes where they feel safe, loved, and valued. Colorado family law strives to help support a loving, family environment for all children, even those whose parents were who never married.

Kelli J. Malcolm is a family lawyer in Aurora who has dedicated her legal career to helping support the best familial outcomes for families in Arapahoe, Denver, Douglas Adams, and Jefferson counties. She fights relentlessly to defend the rights of Colorado children and their parents. If you are attempting to co-parent with a difficult, toxic, or abusive co-parent, contact an experienced child custody lawyer near you — Kelli J. Malcolm. Schedule your consultation today!


When it comes to our children, we all want what is best for them, but what does that really mean? From a legal standpoint, in regard to child custody amidst a divorce or in a allocation of parental responsibilities case, the best interest of the child takes several points into consideration including happiness, mental health, emotional support and development, security, and sometimes, the child’s wishes. While every case is different, and Colorado family courts consider the best interests of the child to include both parents, some of the touchpoints that will be considered includes:

  • The caregiving provided before and during the current situation
  • How the child may be affected when separated from each parent
  • The ability of each parent to personally care for the child
  • The physical, medical, behavioral, and developmental needs of the child
  • Physical, medical, emotional, economic, and social conditions of each parent
  • The presence or involvement of other people during a parent’s parenting time
  • Child’s need to have healthy relationships with both parents
  • Child’s need for consistency
  • Distance between parents’ residences
  • Age, developmental status, circumstances, and needs of children
  • History of contact with the child by a parent
  • The ability of parents to share in responsibilities, rights, and duties of parenting
  • Wishes of the child
  • Emotional and physical needs and dangers
  • Parenting abilities of each parent
  • Behavior of the parent toward the child
  • Acts or omissions of the parent

Ultimately, the courts will take a holistic view of the relationship between the parents and children and the ability of each parent to meet the needs of the child to determine what the best interest of the child is. It’s important to note that Colorado family courts make every attempt to take a hands-off approach to intervening on parenting issues and make every effort to facilitate effective co-parenting. Even in situations of domestic violence, Colorado recognizes the need for a relationship with both parents for the healthy development of children.

The term “unfit parent” has historically been used to pit one parent against another in an emotionally-charged divorce where children are involved. In most situations one parent is the default parent and feels like they do more, and are therefore more important to the welfare of the child. While this is certainly true in some cases, in the majority of cases, both parents serve an equal purpose, in different ways. However, when attempting to prove that one parent deserves more parenting time, or custody, each will recall what they do for the child and where the other one lacks. Colorado family court rarely awards one parent more time or rights to one parent over the other. However, the tragic truth is that some parents are simply legitimately unfit. Some things that can contribute to a parent being declared unfit include:

  • Neglect of the child
  • Physical abuse or intentional injury to the child
  • Excessive use of, or dependence on, drugs or alcohol
  • History of domestic violence and/or assaults against the child or in the presence of the child
  • Presence of a mental illness that renders the parent unable to care for their child
  • Serious bodily injury afflicted on the child
  • Physical or sexual abuse towards the child
  • History of violence or sexual assault
  • Involvement in the injury or death of another child
  • Involvement in previous cases of neglect or dependency
  • Termination of parental rights ordered in another state or involving another child

What Does Declaring A Parent Unfit Mean?

It is a false belief that if a parent is declared unfit that they will relinquish all rights and parenting time of their children. The family courts of Colorado will examine each case individually to determine what the best interest of the child is and what the situation with the unfit parent is. In some rare cases, parenting rights may be revoked or all visitations may be supervised and overnights or being alone with the child may not be an option. To learn more about your rights and what your circumstances mean, connect with a family lawyer in Arapahoe County who is invested in what’s best for your family, connect with the Law Offices of Kelli J. Malcolm today.


Make no mistake about it, there really is no such thing as “winning” a custody battle. No matter how much you love your child or how awful the other parent is, your child is the product of the two of you and will always feel a bond between both of you. As highly charged as a divorce or allocation of parental responsibilities may be and advocating for the best interests of yourself and your child, sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of or remember that your child loves both parents and always will.

Be mindful of what your children are thinking and feeling during your divorce or allocation of parental responsibilities and pay attention to what they are not saying. Some common questions that kids ask regarding custody include:

  • What did I do wrong?
  • Will they get back together?
  • If they don’t love each other any more, do they still love me?
  • What will I do after the divorce?

In a time of such emotional turmoil for you amidst a divorce, it can be hard to remember that your children don’t quite understand voluntary love or adult relationships and many things are black and white to them. Additionally, they hear and absorb everything, whether you say it aloud and they can sense your emotions that you aren’t even verbalizing.

Your child may feel bad about expressing joy or love for the other parent or act out in response to feeling neglected emotionally. Young children especially may not even realize the negative stress they are experiencing is grief over missing the other parent or feeling comfort in family security. When one parent begins dating another person, it may reignite any feelings of separation or perceived failure or betrayal. I cannot stress the importance of counseling and consistent communication with your children. Pitting your child against the other parent or using them as collateral in your divorce or allocation of parental responsibilities will only serve to create a divide between you and your child.

At the Law Offices of Kelli J. Malcolm, I can help you manage the legal aspects of your Colorado divorce, allocation of parental responsibilities and child custody issues so you can attend to the emotional well-being of your children. For a family attorney in Douglas and Arapahoe Counties that has your child’s best interest at heart, contact me for a consultation today!


Fighting To Preserve Colorado Families

Allocation of parental responsibilities, or what most people know as child custody, is Colorado’s laws governing the care of children and the parents established legal responsibilities. Colorado laws err on the side of what is in the best interest of the child and that includes having both of their parents in their lives. Very rarely is “full custody” granted to one parent. When a divorce involves children or there is a co-parenting situation, it is wise to establish legal boundaries. While both parents are responsible for rearing their children, conflicts between parents often muddle things.

At the Law Offices of Kelli J. Malcolm, I work hard to preserve Colorado families and establish orders that are in the best interest of the child. For all of your family legal needs, contact me for your consultation.


Colorado allocation of parental responsibilities is not an all-or-nothing court-ordered establishment of visitation versus custody as many other state family courts settle custody battles. In Colorado, parental responsibilities are legally divided into two categories, decision-making and parenting time. Decision-making responsibilities are usually divided evenly and include such things as where the child attends school, medical plans, etc. Parenting time is the time that each parent gets to spend with the child including visitations, overnights, living arrangements, vacations, travel, etc. If it is geographically possible, both parents should be involved as much as possible and share parenting time and responsibilities. Some factors that influence allocation of parental responsibilities include:

  • Each parent’s ability to provide for the child — physically, emotionally, financially, etc.
  • The schedule or availability of each parent.
  • Geographical location of each parent in relation to the child’s school and other family.
  • The best interests of the child.
  • The parent’s living arrangements — including other people in the home, work-life balance, etc.

Each family in Colorado is unique and will have varying outcomes in regards to allocation of parental responsibilities. For an experienced family lawyer who can help navigate the complex Colorado family legal system, turn to the law firm that has the best interest of your family at the heart of their practice — the Law Office of Kelli J. Malcolm.

Colorado Allocation of Parental Responsibilities FAQ

At what age can a child decide which parent they want to live with in Colorado?
The judge ruling your allocation of parental responsibilities case will take the child's wishes into account at any age as long as they are mature enough to express an opinion. There is no set age in Colorado where a child gets to decide where they will live.  
Can parental responsibility be taken away from a parent?
Generally speaking, the only way to remove parental responsibility from a parent is for the State of Colorado to determine that a parent is unfit.  In the domestic courts, parenting time can be restricted but never eliminated.
At what age can a child refuse visitation in Colorado?
Each child custody case is unique. In Colorado there is no concrete rule determining an age at which children are old enough to make custody decisions on their own.  If there is substantial evidence of abuse or emotional effects of visitation, this will be taken into consideration by the court.
What do custody agreements include in Colorado?
Child custody arrangements in Colorado family law determines practical matters including living arrangements, as well as the moral guidance, upbringing, and decision-making responsibilities for a child.