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Colorado Child Custody Laws


Divorce cases involving children almost always require difficult, and even painful, negotiations over child custody. The same can be said of non-married parents who decide to separate, which raises the sensitive question of how custody will be allocated.

It is highly advantageous for a divorcing parent to be represented by a lawyer well-versed in Colorado child custody laws and experienced in helping clients navigate custody negotiations. The legal team at Divorce Matters® has successfully handled thousands of dissolutions of marriage cases in Colorado that have involved complex issues from child custody to parental decision-making authority to parental relocation and beyond. Every child custody attorney at Divorce Matters® is a seasoned legal advocate who is committed to helping each client work toward the best solution for themselves and their family.

It is important for divorcing parents to understand that Colorado does not use the terms “joint custody” or “sole custody.” Instead, Colorado’s family law courts speak in terms of parental responsibility, which is broken down into the following two components:

Parenting Time

  • “Parenting time” is a term that Colorado courts use to refer to the amount of time a child spends with one parent or the other. It includes the number of overnight stays, as well as vacation and holiday time.

    A Colorado divorce court judge is required by state law to approve a parenting schedule that is in the “best interests of the child” (see, Colo. Rev. Stat. § 14-10-124). In doing so, the judge must consider the following factors:

    • The wishes of the parents
    • The wishes of the child, if they are old enough
    • The child’s relationship with each parent
    • How well the child is adjusted to their home, school, and community
    • The mental and physical health of all parties involved
    • The ability of each parent to encourage love, affection, and contact with their co-parent
    • The parents’ past involvement in their child’s life
    • Where each of the parents lives
    • The ability of each parent to put the child’s needs ahead of their own

    As every child custody lawyer will tell you, Colorado law recognizes that it is generally in every child’s best interest to have frequent contact with both parents and to have both parents actively engaged in their child’s upbringing. It is also important to note that, in Colorado, neither mothers nor fathers enter custody negotiations a step ahead of the other. Colorado law requires that parenting time and decision-making responsibilities be determined based on who is best able to serve the needs of the child, not the gender of the parent.


Another component of parental responsibility relating to Colorado child custody laws is formally called the “allocation of decision-making responsibility.” This is more commonly known as legal custody.  “Decision-making” refers to a parent’s authority to make fundamental decisions about their child’s welfare. This decision-making authority includes the right to make major decisions, such as where the child will attend school and what extracurricular activities that the child will participate in. Smaller everyday decisions generally are not included in this authority, meaning both parents can make these decisions when the child is in their care.

A divorce custody lawyer who is attempting to help a client obtain decision-making authority will argue that, similar to parenting time above, their client making such decisions will be in the best interests of the child.

Whether two parents will be able to share decision-making authority generally boils down to their ability to do the following:

  • Cooperate and constructively make joint decisions
  • Demonstrate a willingness to maintain a mutually supportive environment
  • Collaboratively provide a positive and nourishing relationship with the child
  • Encourage the child to have a positive relationship with both parents

A critical thing to bear in mind about child custody in Colorado is that parenting time (physical custody) and decision-making authority (legal custody) are separate matters that a judge will decide on separately. For example, a judge might conclude that a child is best served by living primarily at one home while giving both parents equal decision-making authority.

Why Choose Divorce Matters®?

The child custody attorneys at Divorce Matters are exceptionally well-versed in Colorado child custody laws and have a long track record of zealously representing clients in child custody cases. We handle all manner of child custody cases, from relatively straightforward cases to far more challenging cases involving the following issues:

Contested Custody

A contested child custody case is one in which the parents are unable to come up with a custody agreement on their own. In this scenario, the court must intervene and make the child custody decisions for them. Contested child custody litigation should always be pursued as a last resort as it can quickly become drawn-out and expensive.


It isn’t uncommon for a parent to want to leave Colorado after divorcing. You should inform your attorney and judge of this intention and the reason why you will be moving. The divorce court judge will take this reasoning, location of your move, and remaining details in your child custody case and allocate parental responsibilities accordingly, centered around the child’s best interests.

Domestic Violence

Colorado courts are required to consider whether a divorcing parent has engaged in domestic violence when determining parenting time and decision-making authority. This is, however, only one factor among many, and courts are generally reluctant to grant zero parenting time to a father or mother for any reason. Again, the court will make its decisions based on the best interest of the child, not the best interest of either parent.

Order Modifications

At Divorce Matters, our child custody lawyers frequently represent parents who desire to have their child custody order modified. Parents most commonly request this when there has been a change in circumstances and modifying the order is in the best interests of the child. Our seasoned child custody attorneys can assist you through the process of filing for any changes you think might be necessary.

Contact Divorce Matters® Today

Child custody is a highly emotional issue in many cases. If you’d like to speak with a local family law attorney about your legal options as they relate to child custody or any other divorce-related topic, then you can contact us at Divorce Matters® by calling us at 720-542-6142 or filling out our online form.

Am I really required to take a parenting class before custody is decided?

Under Colorado law, if a couple getting divorced has kids, they will generally be required to take a one-time parenting class. This class lasts about four hours and costs roughly $60. In most cases, the divorce and child custody decisions will not be finalized until the class has been taken by both spouses.

Can I take my kids out-of-state while my case is pending?

When a divorce is pending, Colorado law prohibits either spouse from taking the children out of state unless they have either the permission of the other spouse, or the permission of the court.

If I get custody, can I choose where my kids go to school?

It depends on if you were awarded sole decision-making responsibilities or not. In Colorado, “decision-making” refers to the authority to make decisions on the child’s behalf. If you have joint decision-making responsibilities, all decisions must be made together with your ex-spouse. However, if you have sole decision-making responsibilities, then you can choose where your kids go to school without permission from your ex-spouse.

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