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Colorado Child Custody Laws

In 1999, Colorado switched from calling child custody by its traditional name, "custody." It uses the term "parental responsibilities" in place of custody. It also substitutes the term "parenting time" for what many call visitation. 

As a result, there is no such thing as joint physical custody or sole legal custody in Colorado. You also won't see references to the non-custodial parent. Instead, there is joint parental responsibility. Likewise, decision-making responsibility may be joint or primary. 

The parental responsibilities are the same. They include deciding who the child lives with, who gets to make major decisions, where the child attends school, and what amounts of "parenting time" or visitation falls to each parent, and possibly grandparents.

In Colorado, the district court hears parental responsibilities and family law matters. The district court is the trial court for most civil and criminal matters.

The district court must decide parental responsibilities for minor children (under 18) based on the child's best interests. This means the judge considers many factors in determining what is best for the child. Factors include parents' wishes, the child's wishes, the emotional bonds between parent and child, and how hard the child would adjust to a new neighborhood or school.

This article gives a general overview of child custody laws in Colorado.

Child Custody Process in Colorado

In Colorado, the child custody case process typically begins with one parent filing a petition to allocate parental responsibilities with the district court. Following this, parents must attend a mandatory mediation session to agree on parental responsibilities. This document is often called a parenting plan

parenting plan may state the parties' agreement on co-parenting or sharing decision-making authority. It will set up the parenting arrangements, including the schedule for parenting time. It will address the child's needs, including child support payments and division of the child's health care costs. 

If the parents agree, they submit a plan to the court. If the court approves the plan, it will adopt it and make it part of the court order. 

But if mediation fails, the case goes to a court hearing where each side presents its evidence (witness testimony and exhibits). A Colorado court judge then will make custody decisions, weighing the evidence on parental responsibilities based on the child's best interests and each parent's ability to care for the child. 

After the hearing, the court issues a final order outlining the custody arrangement and allocation of parental responsibilities. This custody order is legally binding and outlines each parent's rights and obligations to the child.

If parents live in different states, the court will view the case in light of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). This is a model law adopted by 49 states and the District of Columbia to provide a consistent process for resolving custody matters across state lines. 

Child Custody Laws in Colorado: Table

State laws related to child custody matters may vary between states. The following table outlines the main statutes for allocating parental responsibilities in Colorado.

Code sections

Title 14, Domestic Matters

  • Section 14-10-103 — Definitions and interpretations of terms

  • Section 14-10-123 — Commencement of proceedings concerning allocation of parental responsibilities

  • Section 14-10-123.3 — Request for parenting time of a child by grandparents

  • Section 14-10-123.4 — Rights of children in matters relating to parental responsibilities

  • Section 14-10-124 — Best interests of the child

  • Section 14-10-129 — Modification of parenting time

  • Section 14-10-129.5 — Disputes concerning parenting time

  • Section 14-10-131 — Modification of custody or decision-making responsibility

  • Section 14-13-102 — Definitions (UCCJEA)

  • Section 14-13-105 — Effect of child custody determination (UCCJEA)

  • Section 14-13-201 — Initial child custody jurisdiction (UCCJEA)

Year Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act adopted


Joint custody an option?

Yes, but Colorado doesn't recognize the term "joint custody." It uses "decision-making responsibility" terminology instead. There is no preference on how it's allocated, except it must be in the child's best interests.

Grandparent visitation rights recognized?


Child's own wishes considered?

Yes, a child's wishes are a factor the court will consider if they are mature enough to express reasoned and independent preferences for the parenting schedule.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the status of any state law(s) you are researching.

Best Interests of the Child Factors

In Colorado child custody law, determining the child's best interests is paramount in making custody decisions. Several factors guide this determination, including the child's relationship with each parent, the child's adjustment to their home, school, and community, and all involved's physical and mental health.

Colorado courts consider the ability of each parent to encourage a positive relationship between the child and the other parent, as well as any history of domestic violence or substance abuse. Courts may consider the child's wishes related to parenting time, depending on their maturity. 

Colorado courts strive to ensure custody arrangements promote the child's emotional and developmental well-being while fostering a stable and nurturing environment.

Research the Law

Related Resources

Get Legal Advice from a Family Law Attorney

When it comes to child custody laws, the rules can get complicated quickly. You want what's best for your child and hope the law will help you achieve that. If you're dealing with child custody issues in Colorado, you don't have to go it alone. Contact a local child custody attorney to learn more about Colorado child custody laws and how they apply to your situation.

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