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Custody and Parental Responsibilities

If you are the parent of a child or children under the age of 18, the court must enter orders regarding the allocation of parental responsibilities (formerly known as child custody) including parenting time and decision making.

Colorado Parental Responsibility Information Center

Terminology in Child Custody Cases

Although the terms “custody” and “visitation” were used for decades, in 1998, the Colorado General Assembly revised the statutory language eliminating those terms and replacing them with the concept of parental responsibilities. Parental responsibilities include both parenting time and decision making.

Parenting Time

The court must make provisions for parenting time in accordance with the best interests of the minor child or children. In determining the best interests of the child for purposes of parenting time, the court must consider certain relevant factors set forth in C.R.S. 14-10-124, including the following:

  • The wishes of the parents;
  • The wishes of the child, if the child is mature enough to offer input (there is no age at which a child may decide — the decision of whether his or her input should be accepted is entirely at the discretion of the court);
  • The relationship between the child and his or her parents and siblings
  • The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school and community;
  • The mental and physical health of the parents;
  • The ability of the parties to foster love and affection between the child and the other parent;
  • The past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child;
  • The physical proximity of the parties to each other;, and
  • The ability of the parties to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own.

Types of Parenting Time

In fashioning a parenting plan, the court will make provisions for “regular”, “holiday” “vacation” and “summer” parenting time.

Regular Parenting Time involves the home where the child or children reside during the school year.

Holiday Parenting Time involves legal holidays including three day weekends such as

  • Thanksgiving
  • Christmas and New Years
  • Martin Luther King Day
  • President’s Day
  • Memorial Day weekend
  • July 4th
  • Labor Day weekend

Vacation Parenting Time includes school vacations such as

  • Fall Break (if applicable)
  • Christmas Break including New Years
  • Spring Break

Summer Parenting Time includes the summer break from school

Generally speaking, absent abusive circumstances, both parties have a right to a reasonable amount of parenting time with their children. It is very common for a court to award equal or nearly equal parenting time of older children. This customarily takes the form of week on / week off, 4-3-3-4, or 5-2-2-5. The amount of regular parenting time awarded each party necessarily considers the age and maturity of the children, the distance between the parties homes and the distance from each parent’s home to the schools.

Very Young Children

If the children are infants or toddlers, it is still customary for them to reside with the primary care giver, especially if one of the parents has been a stay at home parent. As the child gets older, extended parenting time is given to the non-primary care giver, and overnights are slowly introduced.

Gender Bias

Although gender bias does still exist, it has become less so as the “traditional” family structure has changed. As increasingly more women work, some men have assumed the role of the primary care giver and the courts will honor and respect that role.

** It is important to note that the statute expressly prohibits the court from presuming that one party is better able to make decisions because of that person’s sex.

Frequency of Modifying Parenting Time

Generally, the court may modify an order regarding parenting time whenever it would serve the best interests of the minor child. However, absent certain circumstances, the court may NOT substantially modify parenting time if it changes the parent with whom the child resides a majority of the time more than once every two years.

Decision Making

The court must allocate the decision-making responsibilities between the parties based on the best interests of the child. The court may allocate the decision making authority on an issue by issue basis to both parties mutually or solely to one party. The decision making which is allocated pertains to major decisions including:

  • Education
  • Medical
  • Religion

To a lesser extent, the court may enter orders regarding:

  • Extracurricular Activities
  • Day Care

Day to day decisions are left to the party with whom the children are exercising parenting time. Neither party gets to micromanage the ordinary decisions made by the other parent on a daily basis.

In determining the best interests of the child for the purposes of allocating decision making responsibility, in addition to considering the same factors as for parenting time set forth in C.R.S. 14-10-124, the court must also consider the following:

  • Whether the parties have the ability to cooperate and make decisions together;
  • The past pattern of involvement between the parties and the child indicates that the parties by making joint decisions could provide and positive and nourishing relationship with the child; and
  • Whether joint decisions making will promote more frequent or continuing contact between each of the parties and the child.

Joint vs. Sole Decision Making

“Sole decision making” means that only one of the parents makes the major decisions regarding the health, education and general welfare of the child, including religious upbringing.

“Joint decision making “ means that the parents make these major decisions together. If one parent were to ask for joint decision making but the other does not want it, the judge may or may not agree to joint decision making. The Courts favor joint decision making as that allows both parents to assume an active role in the upbringing of their children. In certain instances such as where there has been spousal abuse, the court cannot order joint decision making. The court also will not order joint decision making where there is credible evidence that the parties are unable to make joint decisions together.

If the parties are not able to make joint decisions, the court may award sole decision making in all areas to one of the parents or may divide the decision making and order that one parent make the decisions regarding education while the other parent makes the decisions regarding medical.

Decision Making vs. Parenting Time

Decision making and parenting time are two separate and distinct concepts. If one parent is awarded sole decision making, that parent may NOT deny or withhold parenting time from the other parent. A parent has the right to parenting time regardless of whether or not they are empowered with decision making authority. Regardless of which parent has decision making or if the parties have joint decision making, the parent with whom the child or children are currently residing has the power to make the day to day decisions

Frequency of Modifying Decision Making Authority

Absent a finding of emotional impairment or physical endangerment, the court cannot modify decision making authority more than once every two years.

If the parents are divorcing, allocation of parental responsibilities becomes part of the divorce action. If the parents are not married, either party may file a separate action for allocation of parental responsibilities. If the parties are not married and paternity is in dispute, an action to determine paternity may be filed by either party.

Fighting for a Father’s Right to His Children

If you are a father facing a critical custody battle, you can have an aggressive, experienced child custody lawyer based in Denver, Colorado, fighting for you. Sharon Liko is an attorney focused on representing men in child custody cases throughout the Denver area, including Douglas County, Arapahoe County, Jefferson County and the communities of Littleton, Englewood, Centennial, Castle Rock, Cherry Hills, Cherry Hills Village, Greenwood Village, Lakewood, Golden and Arvada. also represents clients throughout Colorado, and Ms. Liko is licensed to practice in Texas. Call today at to set up a consultation.

Fighting for a Father’s Right to His Children