Child Custody - Understand Colorado Child Custody Laws
Child custody laws in Colorado are designed with the child’s best interest as the driving force. To do what is best for your children and your family, it is important to have a clear understanding of Colorado child custody laws. It helps to have an experienced family attorney looking out for you and your family and providing the legal counsel you deserve.
The Law Offices of Kelli J. Malcolm is dedicated to preserving the families of Arapahoe and Douglas Counties. If you are facing child custody challenges or navigating a divorce where children are involved, give me a call today. You will have a compassionate voice on the other side.
Negotiating child custody is much more complex than simply determining where the child sleeps at night. Colorado family law makes provisions for all sorts of parenting rights and familial structures. Some of the things I can help navigate include:
- Physical Custody of Children
- Decision Making Rights
- Establishing Parental Responsibility
- Child Support
- Relocation Issues
- Child Abuse
It is important to understand each of these factors and the impact they will have on determining child custody.
“Working with Kelli J. Malcolm, LLC was by far an extremely pleasant experience for me. Ms. Malcolm was kind, compassionate, fair, and extremely professional. I would HIGHLY recommend her Law Firm.”
~ Myria G.
Child Custody Laws in Colorado
PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITIES IN COLORADO
Child custody laws, known as parental responsibilities in Colorado, refer to the decisions on who children will live with, who makes major life decisions, and what parenting time or visitation will take place. These parental responsibilities are based on what is in the best interest of the child(ren) and take into consideration the parent’s and child’s wishes, the emotional bonds that exist, and the school and neighborhood. In the state of Colorado, no one parent is considered a better or more fit parent based on their gender, career, or income.
Whether parental responsibility or child custody, decisions are required due to parental separation or divorce, domestic violence, or change in family status; the courts will be involved and each parent should have legal representation. In matters dealing with children, no matter how amicable the parents are toward each other, things are emotional by nature and can easily become tense or heated. It is important to have a mediator and a non-biased third-party included to advocate for everyone’s best interest, especially the children.
At the Law Offices of Kelli J. Malcolm, I have over twenty-five years of legal experience in child custody cases in the Arapahoe and Douglas counties. Contact me for your legal consultation today!
Physical Custody Versus Legal Custody
When it comes to legal parental responsibilities, it is important to understand the different types of custody and responsibilities that are determined by the family court. In Colorado, the term shared custody refers to the physical living arrangement between parents’ households. Although physical custody is shared, it is not necessarily equal. A schedule is set based on the child’s best interest including the availability of the parent, the child’s school schedule, and the ability of each parent to care for the child.
The term joint custody refers to decision making. While the child may not live with one parent full-time, the responsibility of making decisions — where the child will attend school, medical decisions, and religious upbringing — is shared by both parents.
Sole physical or legal custody is rarely awarded to one parent, except in severe cases when one parent is found to have committed domestic violence — physical, sexual, or emotional — against the child or the child witnessed abuse against the other parent, one parent is proven to be unfit or is not interested in taking parental responsibilities. A parent can be found unfit based on the inability to set age-appropriate limits, inability to care for the child’s needs, previous involvement in the child’s care, substance abuse, and indifference to the child.
The Child’s Best Interest
Child custody and parental responsibility determinations are always made with the child(ren)’s best interest in the forefront. Unlike other states, Colorado family court judges will listen to the child’s wishes so long as the child is mature enough to have an independent opinion. It is important to understand that the child’s wishes are taken into consideration, but the judge will have the ultimate decision.
Matters that help determine what’s in the child’s best interest include:
- Health and safety
- Emotional and developmental needs
- Parenting abilities
- Stability of the parent’s home
- History of domestic violence
When it comes to your child and your child’s best interest, it does not always match your personal wants. For a child custody lawyer in Denver and the Denver-metro area who has your child’s best interest at heart, contact the Law Offices of Kelli J. Malcolm today.
One or both parents may be required to pay child support to the other parent to help cover the joint costs of raising the child. Child support is based on the physical custody of the child and each parent’s income. Child support is meant to help with the needs of the child including covering the costs of feeding the child, educational expenses, health insurance, clothes, maintaining a safe home, and recreational activities. There is no set amount of child support and each case will be evaluated based on its unique circumstances.
For help determining child support entitlements in Colorado’s family courts, contact the Law Offices of Kelli J. Malcolm today!
In Colorado, the term “parenting time” is used to include all of the time that covers a child’s life and care. This includes where the children live, parenting schedules, and time that is spent with children. In lieu of custody and visitation, Colorado acknowledges parental responsibilities. This helps put emphasis on the family and the welfare of the child as much more than just a schedule of when the child will be at each parent’s home.
Colorado state law encourages co-parenting and the least court influence on parental schedules as possible. Additionally, under Colorado law, it is very uncommon for one parent to have “more custody” than the other parent.
Circumstances in which one parent may have more time awarded with a child than the other may include:
- One parent wants less (or no) time.
- One parent is less “fit” — a history of domestic violence or substance abuse issues.
- Parents working schedule.
- The child is a teenager and makes their wishes known.
- The geographical location and distance between parents.
Special Circumstances That Affect Parenting Time
Life happens, and life with children is often busy. The Colorado child custody laws and family courts make every attempt to make splitting parenting time evenly, or as evenly as possible, this also means special events and occasions. Some special circumstances that may affect parenting time include holidays, weekends, school breaks, and birthdays or family holidays. These special times may make coordinating care a little more challenging. It is important to be mindful of what is in the child’s best interest and make these days special for the child rather than “equal” parenting time.
If you and your spouse have difficulty co-parenting or you are co-parenting with a difficult or toxic partner, contact an experienced child custody lawyer in the Denver metro area— Kelli J. Malcolm. At the Law Offices of Kelli J. Malcolm, I make every attempt to make child custody battles easy on your child and fight for your child’s best interest. Contact me to schedule your consultation today!
Colorado Child Custody FAQ
- Who will get custody of my children?
- There are no set rules for child custody in Colorado and many factors are considered before awarding parental responsibility or child support.
- Is colorado a mother or father state?
- Neither. Colorado family law does not err on the side of either parent, but encourages custody and parental responsibility to be equal between parents. Unlike many other states, the child’s wishes are heavily considered and the best interest of the child is the guiding principle in custody matters.
- Can I refuse to allow visitation if child support is not paid?
- No, absolutely not. Your child is not a commodity and child support payment or lack thereof is completely independent of a parent’s right to see their child.
- What if we cannot agree on a custody arrangement?
- If parents cannot mutually agree on a parenting plan or visitation schedule, the court will determine a schedule in the best interest of the child.