Child Custody in Colorado


Area of Law: 

When a couple divorces and there is a minor child involved, the divorce decree will specify who has physical custody as well as legal custody of the child. Physical custody determines where and with whom the child will live. Legal custody specifies who has the legal right to make important decisions concerning the child related to issues such as education, religion, medical issues, and discipline. Spouses often reach an agreement regarding child custody on their own and submit it to the court in the form of a parenting plan. However, if they do not, Colorado courts will intervene and establish custody arrangements based on their determination of the best interests of the child. For more information, see an explanation of “best interests of the child” at:  Colorado Revised Statute 14-10-124.


In Colorado, child custody is known as “allocation of decision-making responsibility” and “allocation of parental responsibility.” The allocation of responsibility is awarded by the court based on what is in the best interests of the child. When awarding parental responsibility, Colorado courts are not rewarding one parent and punishing the other. In Colorado, several types of parental responsibility arrangements are available, including sole responsibility, joint responsibility, or a combination of sole and joint responsibility.


When one parent is awarded physical custody of the child, the other parent is granted visitation. Colorado courts will set visitation rights if the parents are unable to agree upon arrangements. Under Colorado law, a child has the right to maintain an ongoing relationship with both parents. Visits are generally unsupervised and take place at the non-custodial parent's residence.


Although one parent may have more parental responsibility than the other parent, the two parents generally share the decision-making responsibility, which is also known as legal custody. This means that in Colorado, neither parent can make major unilateral decisions regarding the child without consulting the other parent. It is advisable for any decision-making issues which may arise regarding the child to be addressed in the parenting plan of the parents. When parents disagree, a dispute resolution process should also be included in the plan. The dispute resolution process may make provisions for a consultation to take place between the two parents, but it ultimately gives one parent the authority to make the final decision.


According to, Colorado courts consider various factors when awarding child custody, most importantly the best interests of the child. Under Colorado law, some of these factors include the following:


  • Age of the parent and child
  • Physical and mental condition of the parent and child
  • Relationship between each parent and each child
  • Needs of the child
  • Role played by each parent in the upbringing and caring for the child
  • Home where child will live
  • The child's wishes if the child is of a sufficient age, intelligence, and maturity to make the decision


In Colorado, when minor children are involved in the dissolution of a marriage, courts try to do everything possible to lessen the emotional damage that may be done to the children. If necessary, an attorney will be appointed to represent the interests of the child.