Child custody in Colorado

Colorado no longer refers to the determination of parent child relationships after divorce as “child custody.”


Today we instead determine decision-making responsibilities and residential responsibilities for children with their parents.

Colorado Revised Statutes §§14-10-101 et seq.  are the laws that guide us through divorce and parental responsibilities in Colorado.  The Court must determine that the parents’ agreement for parenting time and residential responsibilities for the children are in the best interests of the child or children.  In cases where the parents are not able to make the determination for their children and instead involve the court, the court may appoint a Child legal representative (CLR).  CLR’s usually have legal and/or counseling backgrounds and are specially trained by the State to investigate family dynamics to help determine what is in the best interests of the child.  The factors that must be considered, per the statutory guidelines are:

(I) The wishes of the child's parents as to parenting time;

(II) The wishes of the child if he or she is sufficiently mature to express reasoned and independent preferences as to the parenting time schedule;

(III) The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parents, his or her siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests;

(IV) The child's adjustment to his or her home, school, and community;

(V) The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, except that a disability alone shall not be a basis to deny or restrict parenting time;

(VI) The ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party;

(VII) Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment, and mutual support;

(VIII) The physical proximity of the parties to each other as this relates to the practical considerations of parenting time;

(IX) Whether one of the parties has been a perpetrator of child abuse or neglect under section 18-6-401, C.R.S., or under the law of any state, which factor shall be supported by credible evidence;

(X) Whether one of the parties has been a perpetrator of spouse abuse as defined in subsection (4) of this section, which factor shall be supported by credible evidence;

(XI) The ability of each party to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs.

See §14-10-124.

A parenting plan is meant to be a bottom line when the parents are not able to communicate and be flexible.  Otherwise, the Court appreciates parents who can always act in the children’s best interests and adapt the schedule to the needs – and when reasonable – the wants of the children.

Colorado Child Support

Child Support is an amount of support paid by one parent to the other with consideration of how many over nights the children have with each parent; how much gross income each party is paid; and who pays what for child care, health insurance and any other agreed upon expenses.

While the court may deviate upon request of a parent or agreement of the parents, the court must always consider a fair amount that is reasonable for the needs of the children in a given circumstance.  Parents cannot contract out of child support.

Child Support Enforcement is the State agency that may intervene in cases to make sure the parent ordered to pay is doing so, or that the amount ordered should be modified or not.  Child Support Enforcement may suspend driving privileges or garnish wages and accounts to make sure a parent receives the ordered support to assist with caring of the children.

It is important to note that although child support considers the number of overnights a parent has with the children, you children should never be a bargaining tool for the sake of child support. 

See CRS §14-10-115 for further information.

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NOTE: Many state and federal laws use terms like ‘custody’ when referring to arrangements regarding parenting time and decision-making for a child. While this has been the case for many years, these are not the only terms currently used to refer to these topics.

Today, many family law practitioners and even laws within certain states use terms such as ‘parenting arrangements’ or ‘parenting responsibility,’ among others, when referring to matters surrounding legal and physical child custody. You will find these terms as well as custody used on the OurFamilyWizard website.