What Is the Most Common Custody Arrangement in Colorado?

Formal agreements are often necessary when parents share custody. The welfare of the child and the ability of the parent to care for their child are important to determine when creating a custody agreement. There are endless possibilities for custody arrangements between parents. Some are used more often by the Colorado court system because of their effectiveness. The aim is to give shared children as much support as possible.

How Is Custody Decided?

Unlike other states, Colorado does not use the terms joint and sole custody to describe parenting arrangements. The word “parental responsibility,” which might be primary or shared, is used by the court instead. Typically, the court views a parent as having primary parenting responsibility if they have more than 90 overnight visits with the child within a year. The court will consider a parent to have joint parenting responsibility if they, along with the other parent, spend an equal number of nights with a child.

Moreover, parenting time, akin to physical custody, and decision-making, similar to legal custody, are divided into two categories under Colorado’s child custody regulations. A parent has exclusive decision-making authority when they can decide all significant matters, such as the minor child’s schooling, religion, extracurricular activities, and health, without seeking the other parent’s input. When the parents are required to share decision-making duty, this is referred to as joint decision-making responsibility.

Factors That Impact Child Custody Arrangements

Although the court is tasked with upholding the best interests of a child during a custody case, with the evidence presented by both parents, the factors presented during the hearing can influence the court’s decision. The most prominent factors that play a large part in deciding child custody arrangements are as follows:

  • Mutual agreements about parenting time provided by the parents of a shared child
  • The wishes of the child, typically dependent on their maturity and age
  • The nature of the relationship between the child and their parents or siblings
  • The child’s acclimation to their current situation, especially concerning their school and social life
  • The wellness and health of both the parents and the child
  • The willingness of parents to co-parent
  • The level of involvement each parent has with their child
  • Where the parents live in relation to each other, for practical reasons
  • How well parents can put aside their issues to better support their child

When proposing a specific custody plan, it is important to provide evidence supporting the claims made in the petition. Especially important in cases where one parent is looking to get primary parental responsibility for their child, presenting evidence that supports this claim is more than necessary for convincing the court. For example, suppose one parent typically instigates fights with the other parent, causing issues in properly caring for a shared child. In that case, any evidence of these communications is crucial for convincing the court to go for primary parental responsibility.

Is There a Preferred Parental Responsibility Plan in Colorado?

Colorado’s court system is engineered to encourage and support co-parenting as opposed to primary parental responsibility. The value of both parents having input on their shared child, especially when that child is younger and in need of more care from their parents, is critical for the court’s final custody decision. Although not all cases end in joint parental responsibility plans, the court will try to create these arrangements before moving to primary parental responsibility.

Of course, in situations that warrant one parent having primary parental responsibility over a child, with enough evidence, these may be granted. Suppose a current parental responsibility plan is not working for a child or a parent. For example, if a primary caregiver falls ill and cannot take care of their child due to their illness, they or their co-parent can file to become their child’s primary caregiver. In that case, existing orders can be modified in court with the correct filing procedures and the help of a child custody lawyer.


Q: What Are the Custody Arrangement Options in Colorado?

A: The word “parental responsibility” is used in Colorado and can be either primary or joint. Parents have shared parental responsibility if they split overnight visits with their minor children equally. The other parent is seen as having primary parenting responsibility if the other parent has fewer than 90 overnight visits with a shared child.

Q: What Custody Arrangement Is Best for a Child?

Q: How Is Custody Determined in Colorado?

Q: How Do I File a Custody Agreement in Colorado?

Speaking With a Colorado Child Custody Attorney

Custody agreements can vary drastically based on parental separation situations and the financial factors affecting both parents; however, because the court recognizes the benefit of joint custody arrangements, they will prioritize these systems over awarding sole custody. If joint custody does not suit a certain childcare arrangement, speaking with a family law attorney to seek alternate custody agreements is possible. For any child custody questions, contact our team at Woody Law Firm, LLC today.

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