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The Different Types of Child Custody in Colorado


Undergoing the divorce process is always distressful, but when spouses with children divorce, child custody issues are often the most difficult and contentious aspects of the divorce agreement. No parent relishes the idea of an impartial judge deciding how much time they can spend with their own children, or adjusting to a court-ordered timetable. However, Colorado family courts always place the best interests of the child as their highest priority and the court considers both parents enjoying “continuing and frequent contact time spent with their children” as the best possible outcome.

When parents can negotiate civilly and decide on a fair and mutually agreeable custody schedule, it’s likely that a judge will simply sign off on the agreement. This is the best way for parents to keep important child-raising decisions within their family rather than in the hands of a judge. But before spouses can attempt to address child custody in Colorado, it helps to understand the different types of custody.

Custody Types in Colorado Family Law

Since 1999, Colorado began dropping the use of “custody” in reference to children and instead addresses this aspect of divorced parenting as “parental responsibilities.” This breaks down to three aspects of parental responsibilities or the following four types of child custody in Colorado:

  • Decision-Making Parental Responsibility (Legal custody): This refers to the parent’s right to make important decisions for the child such as medical, educational, and religious decisions.
  • Parenting time (Physical custody): This refers to the time each parent has care of the children in their home, including providing all daily essentials and transporting children to school, daycare, and extra-curricular activities. Parenting time is divided into two types of custody: joint custody, and sole custody.
  • Shared Parental Responsibility (Joint Custody) is when both parents have equal decision-making authority and equal or close to equal parenting time on one of the state’s recommended shared custody schedules.
  • Sole Parental Responsibility (Sole custody) is when one parent retains primary physical custody of the child while the other parent has visitation rights on a pre-set schedule. Under this type of custody, one parent may also have sole decision-making responsibility or it may be shared jointly.

Child support in Colorado isn’t based on shared or sole custody alone, but instead, it’s based on calculating gross monthly income and expenses and then determining an amount the higher-earning parent must pay the lower-earning parent in order to prevent undue hardship and to maintain the children’s accustomed lifestyle.

Parenting Schedules in Colorado

Shared custody schedules in 50/50 parenting time arrangements are the most popular type of custody arrangement in Colorado today. Parents can choose from a variety of preset schedules such as the following:

  • The 2-2-5-5 schedule, which is 2 days with one parent, then 2 days with the other, followed by 5 days with the first parent, followed by 5 days with the other. This allows a close to even number of weekdays and weekends.
  • The 2-2-3 schedule is one that works well for parents with very young children and prevents young children from going long periods of time away from either parent.
  • The 3-4-4-3 schedule
  • The alternating weeks schedule works well for older children

When parents cannot agree on matters of child custody and parenting schedules, the judge will make a decision and issue a child custody order. The judge considers many factors including the parents’ schedules, each parent’s opinions and requests, each parent’s history of involvement with the children, and each parent’s willingness to support the continued relationship with the other parent. For older children, the judge will also consider child preference but always decides in the child’s best interests. To have a lawyer on your side, contact the Law Office of Stephen Vertucci. 

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