Many states in the U.S. have near-identical laws when it comes to divorce, domestic violence, and other family matters. Sometimes, there could be a very strange or century-old law that the common citizen barely knows about. This can prove a big, big problem if you have an upcoming court date.

Like many other states, Colorado’s child custody laws are a bit complicated and it is good to eliminate chances of unnecessary surprises by acquainting yourself with some of the common rules before hitting the courtroom. A Divorce Matters law firm lawyer will help you understand all laws that have a bearing in your child custody case.

What is expected of the parents?

Colorado laws require the parents to prepare and submit a joint parenting plan or separate plans to the court for reviewing and approval. In the single plan, the court will particularly want to look at what you agreed on physical custody and legal custody issues. If each co-parent submits a separate parenting plan, the judge will review both of them and make a fair decision based on the plans. In cases where neither parent submits a plan, the court’s observation and the Colorado child custody laws are used.

Factors considered when determining child custody

The primary factor when making decisions on child custody in Colorado is the child’s best interest. Family courts may thus prefer awarding joint custody to parents who have been probed and deemed fit for this kind of custody. Other factors include:

  • The child’s wishes. Colorado laws are quite unique when it comes to the influence of the child’s wishes in custody determination. In most states, there is an age limit to when child custody determination can be based on the child’s wishes. In Colorado there are no such laws. The judge will simply observe the child’s maturity and ability to make a well-versed decision on the issue.
  • Wishes of both parents. If both co-parents agree that one of them should be awarded custody, the court will grant their wish. The child’s wishes and relationship with either parent may however override the co-parents’ wishes.
  • The child’s health and age will also be considered when gauging their ability to muddle through a sudden change in school, location, friends, community, and so on.

Note that there is a huge difference between legal custody and physical custody and that a judge can award both co-parents the former and deny one the latter. If you have been awarded physical custody, it means the child will be living with you.

Legal custody, on the other hand, gives the co-parent the responsibility of making important decisions in the child’s life, including choosing schools for them, deciding whether they need psychological counseling or academic tutoring, deciding when they should see the doctor, choosing a religious instruction for them, and so forth. Joint legal custody allows both parents to have a say in the child’s life. A parent can be denied both physical and legal custody if they are found to have been abusive to the child, are drug or alcohol addicts, or have a mental health condition.