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Types Of Child Custody And Parental Rights

Child custody is an emotionally charged topic for any parent. Most parents want what is best for their children, but it can be difficult for divorcing partners to agree on what is best for their shared children. Nonetheless, like every other state, Colorado uses the “best interests of the child” standard to determine which type of child custody should apply in each family law dispute involving children. Parents should consider this standard when weighing their options for child custody. Colorado Divorce Law Group may be able to help parents determine which type of child custody will work best for their situation. Call (720) 593-6442 to learn more.

Understanding Allocation of Parental Responsibilities in Colorado

Colorado uses the term “Allocation of Parental Responsibilities” (APR) when discussing how parents should share time and make decisions regarding their children. Colorado law uses “APR” instead of “custody,” but the concept is still the same as in states that use the term “custody.” Parental responsibilities will generally include:

  • Where the child should physically reside
  • Who will make major decisions regarding the child (education, health, religion, etc.)
  • Visitation and parenting time
  • Shared parenting arrangements and the logistics of those agreements

Joint Custody vs. Decision-Making Responsibility

Joint custody is certainly an option in Colorado. However, the state uses the term “decision-making responsibility” instead of joint custody. Here again the concept is very similar. There is no specific preference about who should receive custody (the mother or the father), but every APR decision must be in the child’s best interests.

Grandparents’ Rights

Colorado is also one of just a few states that recognizes grandparents’ rights as well. Grandparents can petition for visitation, even if their child (the parent) does not have legal rights to their child.

The Best Interests of the Child

Family law courts in Colorado use the “best interests of the child” standard to determine the appropriate APR between parents. Specifically, the court will consider various factors regarding the child, including:

  • The child’s safety and wellbeing
  • Emotional and physical health of the child and each parent
  • Mental and physical needs of the child
  • Any special circumstances regarding either parent’s ability to care for the child
  • Situations that involve domestic violence or neglect

Ultimately, the court will consider the full facts of the situation before making any decisions about things like parenting time or child custody. Such an examination requires a deep dive into the lives of each parent and the child. Colorado law starts with the assumption that it is in the child’s best interests to have a relationship with both parents. However, there are circumstances where it is not safe or impractical for a child to have much contact (or any contact) with a parent.

Types of Child Custody in Colorado

Instead of the word “custody,” Colorado uses the term “parental responsibility.” Nonetheless, each type of custody that is available in other states is still generally available in Colorado.

  • Decision-Making Parental Responsibility: This responsibility involves a parent’s right to make critical decisions regarding their children. These decisions often involve some of the most important aspects of a child’s life and growth, including things like medical care, education, religious upbringing, and more. In other states, this right is referred to as “Legal Custody.” In most cases, parents will share legal custody, but not always.
  • Parenting Time: This right refers to the physical time that a parent has with the child within a home. In other states, this right is referred to as “Physical Custody.” It is a different concept than visitation, which only involves visits with a child and not the full physical responsibility of caring for a child that might involve things like ensuring that they get to the doctor, attend school, engage in extra-curricular activities, and other aspects of daily life.
  • Shared Parental Responsibility: This right is the same as having “Joint Custody” in other states. In this type of situation, both parents have equal rights to make critical decisions about the child. If they cannot come to an agreement, they may need to involve the court. They also often have roughly equal parenting time with the child as well.
  • Sole Parental Responsibility: This is the same as “Sole Custody” in other states. Only one parent has primary physical custody of the child, and they might also have all of the decision-making parental responsibility as well. The other parent may not be involved in the child’s life at all, or they may only have visitation rights. In some cases, one parent may have sole parental responsibility but shared decision-making parental responsibility.

Child support will vary based on the type of parental responsibility in place. In some situations, child support is not awarded at all because the parents have shared parental responsibility and have roughly equal income and resources. However, according to the Child Support Guidelines, if income and resources are imbalanced and one parent has more parental responsibility than the other, then child support is more likely to be awarded.

FAQs About Parental Responsibility in Colorado

Parents often have a lot of questions about parental responsibility when they are going through a divorce. The Colorado Divorce Law Group addresses a few of the most frequently asked questions below.

What Type of Child Custody Is Best for a Child?

It depends. Every case is different, and type of custody that will work best for a child in one situation may not work as well in another. Colorado law does assume that children should have some relationship with each parent as a default, so in a typical case you can expect to share custody with your child’s other parent to some degree. If parents want to have any other type of custody other than shared or joint, they must have a good reason for this preference and be able to present the court with compelling evidence.

What Type of Child Custody Is Most Common?

In most situations, the court will try to award joint custody. As a result, in most circumstances each parent will continue to have rights and obligations regarding their child. Only in the event that there is a specific reason to limit or stop contact with one parent will the court consider other types of child custody.

What Are the Custody Rights of Fathers in Colorado?

There is no legal preference for mothers over fathers, or for fathers over mothers, under Colorado law. However, if a child is born out of wedlock, a father may need to take a genetic test to prove that he is the child’s biological father before he can assert his rights.

Get Help With Child Custody in Colorado

Child custody is an emotionally charged subject, in large part because of its life-altering stakes for both parents and children. However, you do not have to navigate the complexities of child custody arrangements on your own. The Colorado Divorce Law Group has assisted countless families in seeking arrangements that will benefit both parents and children. Contact us at to (720) 593-6442 learn how we may be able to help.