In any divorce involving children, determining who will get custody and how visitation will be handled is oftentimes the most emotionally challenging aspect you will face. Usually, neither parent wants to give up time with their children, and disputes can escalate quickly.
In the state of Colorado, “custody” is actually referred to as “parental responsibilities.” When two parents are embroiled in a dispute over the custody and visitation of their child or children, it will be left to the courts to determine the allocation of parental responsibilities.
In Colorado, parental responsibilities with regard to where the child will reside differ from responsibilities regarding parental rights to make decisions for and about the child (which we will discuss later in this blog).
Residential responsibility is similar to what many other states call physical custody. If the two parents share nearly an equal amount of overnight visitations with the child, this is considered joint parental responsibility. One parent will be considered to have primary residential parental responsibility if the child spends less than 90 overnight visits with the other parent.
As previously mentioned, parental decision-making responsibilities are considered separate from residential responsibilities with regard to custody. Colorado’s decision-making responsibilities are the equivalent of what other states call legal custody. This is the right to make legal decisions on behalf of the child, such as decisions regarding medical treatment, schooling, and much more.
Parental decision-making responsibilities may be either sole or joint. If one parent has sole decision-making responsibility, he or she has full control and freedom to make all the major decisions about the child’s life without having to discuss the decisions with the other parent first (as long as the decisions do not violate the divorce decree). Joint decision-making would involve both parents having to agree before any such decisions are made.
How are Parental Responsibilities Allocated?
If the allocation of parental responsibilities are left to the courts, whether in a divorce or some other situation involving a custody dispute, they will consider a number of factors in making its decision. However, in all cases the court must consider what will be in the best interests of the child. There is no specific formula that the court must follow, and each decision will be made on a case-by-case basis. Though the guiding principle will always be to do whatever is best for the child, the courts may also consider other factors such as:
- Child’s age and condition
- Parental living situation
- Child’s current living situation (with preference often given to maintaining the status quo)
- Parental social habits
- History of abuse or neglect
- Parental willingness to work with the other parent
- Child’s wishes
Keep in mind, the allocation of parental responsibilities is determined entirely separately from decisions regarding things like alimony and child support.
If you are facing a Colorado divorce with children, please contact the law office of Carolyn Moller Duncan right away and let us fight to ensure you and your children both receive fair treatment and an equitable resolution with regard to the allocation of parental responsibilities.