Child Custody

What is the difference between an award of Custody and the Allocation of Parental Responsibilities?

Colorado has done away with the concept of awarding custody. Instead, the courts allocate parental responsibilities (sometimes referred to as an “APR”). Custody, or the legal right to care for a child, was comprised of two components: physical/residential custody (i.e. which parent’s home will be the child’s primary residence – with the non-residential parent exercising visitation) and legal custody (i.e. the authority of each parent to make major decisions concerning the needs of the child). An allocation of parental responsibilities includes parenting time and parental decision making based on considerations of the child’s “best interests” and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions and needs of the child. The allocation of parental decision-making authority and the parenting time schedule is set forth in a parenting plan, which becomes an order of the court.

Does the court assume that a 50/50 parenting arrangement is best or that a child is better off with his/her mother?

There is no statutory presumption for equal shared parenting or one which favors the mother over the father (the law is gender-neutral). Each parent is entitled to reasonable and liberal parenting time unless the court finds, after a hearing, that the exercise of such parenting time will endanger the child’s physical health or significantly impair the child’s emotional development.

What criteria does the court use when awarding parenting time and parental decision-making authority?

The court considers a variety of statutory factors including the ability of the parents to cooperate and make decisions about the child together; each parent’s history of past involvement with the child; whether there are is evidence of child abuse, neglect or domestic violence; the physical proximity of the parents; the ability of each parent to encourage the sharing of love, affection and contact between the child and the other parent and the ability of each parent to place the needs of the child first. The court may also consider the wishes of the parents regarding parenting time and those of the child – if the child is deemed to be sufficiently mature to express a reasoned and independent preference.

Who creates the parenting plan?

The parties are expected to submit a proposed parenting plan (or alternative plans, if they cannot agree) for the court’s approval which addresses both the allocation of parenting time and parental decision-making. If the court does not approve the submitted plan or the parties are otherwise unable to agree, the court will formulate its own plan.