Understanding Sole Custody in a Colorado Divorce

Colorado Sole CustodyAny time there are children involved in a divorce, custody orders are typically established in the process. If one parent is awarded sole custody, then the rights and responsibilities of the other parent are dependent on the type of sole custody received.

There are two types of sole custody: physical custody and legal custody. With sole physical custody, the child resides with one parent and is under the parent’s supervision. The other parent is subject to reasonable visitation arrangements, unless the court deems that visitation is not in the child’s best interests. With sole legal custody, on the other hand, one parent is given the right and responsibility to make major decisions related to the child’s welfare. This includes authority on matters of medical care, education, as well as moral, emotional, and religious development.

With these two variables, there are a number of ways custody can be arranged. A parent, for instance, may be awarded both sole physical and legal custody rights. In another family, a parent may be awarded sole legal custody rights but may need to share physical custody with the other parent.

Most states recognize the concept of custody. In 1999, however, Colorado began to use the term “parental responsibility” instead. Parental responsibilities remain the same, referring to the rights and responsibilities a parent has to care for his or her child. This allocation of parental responsibilities refers to which parent gets decision-making responsibilities for the child, and also includes decisions on how much parenting time each parent has with a child.

While it can be difficult to obtain sole custody in any state, it is particularly difficult in Colorado. State law specifically dictates that after a divorce, children should be able to maintain frequent and meaningful contact with both of their parents. With this in mind, the state leans towards parents sharing child custody and decision-making responsibilities as equally as possible, preventing one parent from making all major decisions on behalf of a child. Instead of traditional joint custody, Colorado judges prefer that parents share equal financial responsibility and time for their child.

It is uncommon for Colorado courts to award both sole legal and physical custody to one parent unless they have reason to believe that the other parent is inept or unfit. Such scenarios are if one parent has a history of violence, alcohol or drug abuse, mental instability, or child neglect. Even then, the courts may grant the parent visitation rights under a controlled visitation agreement.