When parents in Colorado are divorcing, they may turn to the court to make child custody decisions if they cannot reach an agreement on their own. Child custody decisions in Colorado are made based on the best interests of the child. Using this standard, Colorado courts will dictate which parent(s) have the right to make decisions on behalf of the child and with which parent(s) the child will reside.
Typically, under Colorado family law, parents who are seeking a child custody order from the court will be awarded joint legal custody (referred to in Colorado as joint parental responsibilities). When parents share legal custody, they are each responsible for making key life decisions on behalf of their child, such as what doctor the child will see and where the child will go to school.
When it comes to physical custody of the child, however, a joint 50/50 arrangement is not always feasible. This is especially true if the parents live far apart from one another. Thus, courts may award one parent sole physical custody and the other parent visitation (referred to in Colorado as parenting time).
A child's preferences will also be considered by the court if the child has sufficient maturity to express an independent opinion. Colorado is unique in that the child's age is not necessarily a factor as to whether the child can express a preference as to which parent he or she wants to reside with. That being said, the child's wishes are just one factor of many. In the end, it is the court who will make the final ruling on child custody issues.
Ultimately, it is important for a child to have a meaningful relationship with both of his or her parents. The best interests of the child standard aims to support this goal, absent abuse or other extenuating circumstances that would require limitations to be made on where and how a child will spend time with a parent. Parents in Colorado generally want to see that their child is not harmed by their divorce, so by respecting the court-ordered child custody plan, they can provide the child with the stability the child needs during what is, for the child, an uncertain time.