The basics of child custody in Colorado

On Behalf of | Sep 14, 2023 | Child Custody

Child custody is one of the most sensitive matters that comes with a divorce. When a parent has legal custody, they make all significant decisions for their child. On the other hand, physical custody refers to a parent’s right to have the child live with them. Colorado recognizes “parental responsibilities” instead of legal and physical custody.

Parental responsibilities comprise parenting time (physical custody) and decision-making responsibilities (legal custody). Just like child custody, parental responsibilities can be joint or sole.

Sole versus joint decision-making responsibility

When a parent has sole decision-making responsibility, they have the authority to decide on all the major aspects of their child’s life without the obligation of consulting the other parent. These include:

  • Education
  • Medical care
  • Religious upbringing
  • Extracurricular activities

By contrast, joint decision-making responsibility is where the parents make those decisions together. They both have a say. Joint decision-making responsibility is usually the default arrangement in most child custody cases because courts usually believe it is in the child’s best interests that both parents remain actively involved.

Sole versus joint parenting time

Parenting time is the schedule of when the child will live with each parent. The parents create an arrangement by assigning days in the calendar to determine when the child will stay with them through a parenting plan. In joint parenting time, parents have an equivalent number of days with the child. When a child spends 90 overnight stays or less with one parent, that would mean the other parent, with whom the child spends most of their time, has sole or primary parenting time.

A comprehensive parenting plan can allow you to distinguish the extent to which each parent can exercise parental responsibilities. It is an effective way to set boundaries and avoid overstepping. However, it should be explicit and detailed enough to cover all parenting responsibilities, and both parents should agree to the terms and conditions.