Physical Custody In Colorado

The term "allocation of parental responsibilities" in Colorado replaced the term "custody." Although Colorado courts and the Colorado Legislature no longer rely on the term custody, it still is used in common conversation and remains helpful, so it will be used here.

When discussing allocation of parental responsibilities, there are two primary questions. The first question involves who the child will be with and for how long, and this is called physical custody. The second question involves who will make key decisions for the child - including, educational, religious and medical decisions - and this is called legal custody. This article will discuss physical custody but not legal custody, which will be addressed in another article. There is one primary standard in Colorado for who gets physical custody, and that standard is based on what is in the "best interests of the child" (Colorado Revised Statutes section 14-10-124).

In determining who the child shall be with and for how long, the court will consider the following factors:

  1. Wishes of the child's parents.
  2. Wishes of the child if he/she is mature enough.
  3. Interactions and relationships of the child with his/her parents, siblings and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests.
  4. The child's adjustment to his/her home, school and community.
  5. The mental and physical health of everyone involved, except that a disability by itself shall not be a basis to deny or restrict parenting time.
  6. Ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of love, affection and contact between the child and the other party.
  7. Whether the past pattern of involvement of the parties with the child reflects a system of values, time commitment and mutual support.
  8. The physical proximity of the parties to each other.
  9. Whether one of the parties has been a perpetrator of child abuse or neglect.
  10. Whether one of the parties has been a perpetrator of domestic violence.
  11. The ability of each party to place the needs of the child ahead of his or her own needs.

Some people are under the impression that women have an advantage in custody issues, especially when it comes to younger children. That is not the case, however, as Colorado does not recognize the "tender years" doctrine. In fact, the Legislature specifically prevents courts from taking a parent's gender into account when deciding custody matters. Moreover, courts are not allowed to be biased toward fathers who have requested paternity tests.