Filing for child custody in CO is a process you can either attempt to do yourself or do under the help and guidance of a child custody lawyer. Which option you choose will depend on multiple factors such as the complexity of your case, how contentious things are between you and your spouse and your financial situation.
Can You File For Child Custody in CO Without a Lawyer?
Yes, in legal terms, filing on behalf of yourself is called “pro se.” But while it’s possible for a parent to pursue a child custody case on their own, they may eventually find that having a Family Law attorney is crucial. Read on to know the steps in filing for child custody in Colorado, and why you might want a lawyer.
Steps In Filing For Colorado Child Custody
- Discuss with the other parent, if possible. Colorado allows for both parents to petition for custody together or each separately. If you and the other parent can agree to file together, you can both craft a parenting plan that’s favorable for both of you. This should save you time and hassle. The agreed parenting plan only has to be notarized and submitted for the court’s approval.
- Prepare your parenting plan. If you are filing the case alone, you’ll need to self-assess and plan for how your child will live with you. Draft a parenting plan that addresses key components in your child’s life, such as their education, healthcare, religious upbringing, and how they will be provided for. Include how much parenting time each parent gets and how this parenting time will be spent (vacations, weekends, and so on).
After polishing your draft, you’ll need to get this parenting plan notarized.
- Complete the forms. Colorado courts require you to fill out the following: Case Information Sheet (JDF 1000), Petition for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (JDF 1413), Summons to Respond to Petition for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (JDF 1414), and Order for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (JDF 1422). You can download these forms from the Colorado Judicial Branch website (click on the plus signs). Note that JDF 1413 will need to be notarized.
- File at your appropriate court. You must go to the district court in the county where your child currently lives. You can find the list of Colorado district courts here. Upon successful filing, the clerk will give you a Case Management Order, which lists upcoming court dates and other forms needed in your case.
- Serve the other parent. If you are filing alone, you must notify (or “serve”) the other parent that you are formally seeking custody of your child. To serve the other party, you must deliver JDF 1413 and JDF 1414 to them using a specific process called personal service (see the steps here). After serving, you need to provide the court with a valid proof of service.
- Attend the Initial Status Conference (ISC). The Case Management Order that you received upon court filing should contain a date for your ISC. This is the very first formal meeting in your child custody case. Attendance of both parents is required.
Do I Need A Lawyer To File For Child Custody In Colorado?
The filing for child custody process may look straightforward on paper, but in real life, it can be challenging. Parents often find that they need a lawyer’s guidance to make their petition legally sound and strategic from the start.
Drafting a parenting plan is a key document that the judge will examine, measuring it up against the legal standard of “best interests of the child.” Whether you are making the parenting plan by yourself or with the other parent, you’ll want to consult a good family law attorney to ensure that your proposal satisfies this standard.
A lawyer is all the more important if you are seeking custody separately, especially if you and the other parent are not agreeable with each other. It is sadly typical for parents to fight bitterly over child custody, with one parent ending up losing some of their rights because they did not sufficiently advocate for themselves. From the get-go, you must have a strategy to protect your parental rights, and the best way to do that is by having a lawyer on your side.
In Colorado, Goldman Law is a law firm that has a proven track record of effectively advocating for parents. Please don’t hesitate to talk to us about your child custody case by calling (303) 656-9529 to schedule a consultation and get case-specific guidance.