Joint versus Sole Custody in Colorado: Understanding Your Options

Joint versus Sole Custody in Colorado: Understanding Your OptionsChild custody in Colorado is legally called “parental responsibility.” There are two main ways that the court may grant child custody in the state: joint custody (also known as joint parental responsibility) or sole custody (also called sole parental responsibility). The decision between these two paths can have a profound impact on the lives of both parents and children.

In this general guide, we’ll explore the nuances of joint and sole custody in Colorado. For legal advice specific to your situation, don’t hesitate to talk to our experienced child custody lawyers.

What is Joint Custody?

Joint custody, also called shared custody or joint parental responsibility, is an arrangement where both parents share the rights and responsibilities of raising their child. Joint custody can take two forms:

  • Joint legal custody: Both parents have equal decision-making authority over crucial aspects of the child’s life, such as education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. In Colorado, legal custody is called “decision-making responsibility.”
  • Joint physical custody: The child’s time is divided between both parents’ households, with a specific parenting schedule outlining when the child will reside with each parent. Colorado courts use the term “parenting time” for this custody type. The court may grant equal parenting time to both parents, which means the parents have joint parental responsibility. Or the court may give more overnights to one parent over the other. A parent who gets more than 90 overnights with the child has the “primary parenting responsibility” in legal terms.

Joint custody aims to foster a collaborative co-parenting relationship, ensuring that both parents remain actively involved in their child’s life.

What is Sole Custody?

In contrast to joint custody, sole custody grants one parent exclusive legal custody, exclusive physical custody, or both.

  • Sole legal custody means only one parent has the right and responsibility to make major decisions for the child’s wellbeing, including the child’s health care, education, and religious development.
  • Sole physical custody means the child lives with only one parent. Colorado family courts rarely grant this type of custody. Instead, whenever suitable, the court will give primary custody to one parent and some parenting time (visitation) to the other parent.

Factors Considered in Custody Decisions

When determining custody arrangements in Colorado, the court’s primary consideration is the best interests of the child. Several factors are taken into account, including:

  • The child’s relationship with each parent
  • The ability of each parent to provide a stable and nurturing environment
  • The child’s preference (if they are of sufficient age and maturity)
  • Any history of domestic violence or substance abuse
  • The parents’ ability to cooperate and communicate effectively.
  • Among others

The court may also consider the child’s adjustment to their current living situation, the proximity of the parents’ residences, and any other relevant factors that could impact the child’s well-being.

Advantages of Joint Custody

Joint custody offers several potential benefits for both parents and children:

  • Continued involvement: Both parents remain actively involved in the child’s life, fostering a strong bond and sense of security.
  • Co-parenting: Joint custody encourages parents to collaborate and communicate effectively, promoting a healthier co-parenting relationship.
  • Shared responsibilities: Both parents share the responsibilities of raising their child, reducing the burden on a single parent.
  • Stability: Children can maintain a consistent relationship with both parents, minimizing the disruption to their daily routines.

Advantages of Sole Custody

While joint custody is often preferred, there are situations where sole custody may be more appropriate:

  • Domestic violence, abuse, or neglect: If one parent poses a threat to the child’s safety or well-being, the judge may grant sole custody to the other parent.
  • Inability to cooperate: If parents have a highly contentious relationship and are unable to effectively co-parent, sole custody may be a better option.
  • Geographic distance: If the parents live too far apart, making joint physical custody impractical, sole custody may be awarded to one parent.
  • Consistency and stability: In some cases, sole custody can provide a more stable and consistent living environment for the child.

Split Custody: A Balanced Approach

In addition to joint and sole custody, Colorado also recognizes split custody as a viable option for families. Split custody is an arrangement where one parent has primary physical custody of one or more children, while the other parent has primary physical custody of the remaining child or children. This approach can be beneficial in situations where siblings have different needs or preferences, or when the parents live in different school districts or communities.

Split custody allows each parent to have a significant role in the upbringing of their respective children, while still maintaining some involvement in the lives of the other children. This custody arrangement may also help maintain strong bonds between siblings who may be living in separate households. It additionally provides a degree of flexibility for parents to tailor the custody arrangement to the unique needs and circumstances of their family.

However, split custody can also present challenges, such as logistical difficulties in coordinating schedules and activities, and potential emotional strain on children who may feel divided between their parents’ households. As with any custody arrangement, the court’s primary consideration in determining shared custody will be the best interests of the children involved. Factors such as the children’s ages, relationships with each parent, and the ability of the parents to cooperate and communicate effectively will all play a role in the decision-making process.

Modifying Custody Arrangements

Colorado child custody arrangements are not always set in stone. As circumstances change, parents may seek to modify the existing custody order. A parent who wishes to amend or update a custody order may file a motion with the court. They will need to demonstrate a change in circumstances that warrants a modification in the best interests of the child.

Seek Legal Guidance from a Top Child Custody Lawyer

Navigating the complexities of child custody can be challenging, and it’s crucial to have an experienced family law attorney by your side. At Goldman Law, LLC, our Denver family law attorneys have extensive experience in handling custody cases and can provide invaluable guidance throughout the process. With our skills and commitment to your family’s well-being, we can help you achieve the best possible outcome for your unique situation.

If you’re facing a custody dispute or have questions about your options, don’t hesitate to contact us at (303) 656-9529. Our team is dedicated to protecting your rights and ensuring that your child’s best interests are prioritized.