If you divorce and there are children involved, you and your ex-spouse will need to think about topics such as child custody. Every state has child custody laws and they are all fairly similar.
Interestingly, Colorado actually calls child custody “parental responsibilities.” While the terms are different, the meanings are the same. Parental responsibilities involve deciding who the child lives with and who gets to make major decisions for the child (such as education, religion, and healthcare). This is known as physical and legal custody.
What You Need to Know About Child Custody Laws in Colorado
Like most other states, child custody laws in Colorado have been put in place to prioritize the best interests of the child when parents are going through a divorce or separation. The best interests of the child include various factors such as the following:
- The parents’ wishes.
- The child’s wishes, if they are of sufficient maturity (Colorado does not have a set age.)
- The relationship between the child and their parents and any siblings
- The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community.
- The mental and physical health of everyone involved (but note that a parent’s disability alone cannot be a basis to deny or restrict parenting time).
- The love, affection, and contact between the child and the parents
- How far apart the parents live
- The ability of each parent to place the needs of the child ahead of their own needs
- Whether or not the parties can cooperate and make joint decisions
- Any abuse or neglect toward the child
Some factors the court cannot consider include the following:
- Gender. In the past, women were deemed more capable of raising children. Nowadays, judges favor joint custody, with custody split between both parents around 50/50. Gender no longer matters.
- Salary. Whether one parent earns more than the other does not matter. This is why child support is in place. It helps bridge the gap between the incomes of the parents to ensure the children are cared for financially.
- Sexual orientation. A parent’s sexual orientation does not matter. While it is typical for both parents to share the same sexual orientation, the fact that one parent is heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual does not make a difference when it comes to child custody.
- Adultery. Infidelity is often brought up in divorce cases, but it rarely does any good to do so. While cheating is seen as wrong and immoral, it does not necessarily make a person a bad parent, so it is not usually considered in a custody case.
- Educational level. A parent’s educational level does not matter. They can be a high school dropout or a college graduate. All that matters is that the parent takes care of their child.
Grandparents do not have custody rights in Colorado. While it is nice for grandparents and grandchildren to have relationships with each other, third parties do not have visitation rights to minor children unless the parents give up their rights.
A parenting plan outlines how divorced parents will share the rights and responsibilities of raising their children. The parents are required to submit one to the court to outline the plans in place for visitation and decision-making.
You should include information about physical custody, which refers to where your child lives and who cares for them. It’s a good idea to include a parenting schedule in written and visual form to show when the child will be with each parent.
You should also outline legal custody, which refers to who has the authority to make decisions for your child. How will the parents share or divide decision-making?
Is Child Custody Connected to Child Support?
Contrary to popular belief, child support and custody are not connected. Even if there is joint custody or parental responsibility, there could still be child support involved. That is because child support is based on gross monthly income and other expenses. Who has the majority of time with the child is not the sole factor in a support obligation.
Another thing to keep in mind is that payment of child support does not determine custody. This means that a parent has the right to see their child whether or not they make timely child support payments. A parent cannot keep the other parent from visiting their child due to a lack of payment.
Contact Us Today
If you are dealing with child custody issues in Colorado, you do not have to go it alone. You need someone on your side who understands how much your children mean to you.
Contact Tanis McGonegal to learn more about Colorado child custody laws and how they apply to your particular situation. Discuss basic aspects of child custody, parenting time, and other key issues in your divorce with our Colorado family law attorneys. To schedule a consultation, call (303) 465-4605 or fill out the online form.