Divorce in Colorado & Who the Child Lives With

by Beverly Bird
In Colorado, your child will live with the parent who has primary residential responsibility.

In Colorado, your child will live with the parent who has primary residential responsibility.

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If you and your spouse are divorcing, the unfortunate reality is that your child can no longer live with both of you. If you live in Colorado, however, there's a reasonable chance that you and your spouse can at least evenly share time with your child. This state is somewhat progressive about considering, and even ordering, 50-50 parenting plans.

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Colorado Law Custody Provisions

Colorado did away with traditional custody terms in 1999. Instead of having physical custody, the spouse your child will live with most of the time is said to have primary residential parental responsibility. This should not be confused with decision-making parental responsibility, which correlates to legal custody, and involves the right to make important decisions that affect your child's upbringing. In Colorado, a parent is said to have primary residential responsibility if her child spends 92 nights a year or fewer with the other parent – roughly 25 percent of the time or less.

Gender Bias

Technically, Colorado courts do not consider a spouse's gender when awarding primary residential parental responsibility. It may seem that many mothers have an edge, however, because one the factors Colorado judges consider when awarding physical custody is which parent was traditionally the child's caregiver during the marriage. Historically, mothers have often filled this role, so it might appear as though there's a gender bias.

Custody Factors

Colorado judges must consider a total of 11 factors when deciding primary residential parental responsibility, including those that allude to which parent was most hands-on with raising your child. These factors are designed to determined what placement would most be in your child's best interests. Factors include consideration of which parent is most likely to promote a healthy, loving relationship between the child and her other parent – which means not interfering with visitation – and your child's wishes, if she's old enough. This is often, but not always, taken to mean that your child is over 12. The factors consider if either parent is guilty of child or spousal abuse, and the mental and physical health of each parent. Marital misconduct, such as adultery, does not affect a Colorado court's custody decision, however, unless it somehow had a direct effect on the child's well-being.

Joint Custody

In Colorado, shared physical custody is defined as a child spending more than 92 nights per year with the non-primary parent. If your child spends about 180 overnights with each of you, this is a true 50-50 parenting arrangement, and Colorado courts are willing to order this under some circumstances. It typically doesn't work with very young children, and the court may be reluctant to order it if you and your spouse intend to live some distance apart. Shared physical custody may also depend on parents' work schedules. If your job takes you away from home a lot, a judge might be disinclined to order a 50-50 residential arrangement if it would mean that your child spends a lot of time with a third-party caregiver during your parenting time. Courts generally consider that your child's best interests are more appropriately met if she can spend your working hours with her other parent.