In Colorado, Allocation of Parental Responsibilities is an Umbrella Term that Encompasses at Least Two Distinct Areas – and the Differences are Important.

Allocation of parental responsibilities in Colorado is, put simply, an umbrella term that includes both parenting time and decision-making.  While one would seem to be incorporated into the other, they are separate under Colorado law.

What do you mean there is no custody?

In 1999, Colorado abolished the term custody, though – some 19 years later – it continues to be widely used.  However, Colorado statutes now use the term “Allocation of Parental Responsibilities” to cover what used to be known as “legal custody” (decision-making) and “physical custody” (parenting time).

Decision-making

Decision-making is exactly what it sounds like – the authority to make decisions for the child or children.  What decisions?  Everything generally considered a major decision.  What school will the children attend?  What doctors, dentists, specialists, or mental health providers will the children see? Will the children have surgery or get braces? What church will the children go to?  Its these types of major decisions that are generally incorporated into this category.  However, the smaller day-to-day decisions (discipline, homework, daily routine) are usually left to the parent the child lives with.

Often, decision-making is divided equally among the parents (discussed further below).  Presuming the parents can cooperate, this is often in the best interest of the child.  However, the parents got divorced for a reason, so this can sometimes be a challenge.  Because of this, there are several programs designed to assist parents in cooperating and collaborating.[1]

Parenting time

Parenting time is the equivalent of physical custody.  The division of parenting time involves the court deciding with who, for how long, and how often, the child is with the individual parents.  Under Colorado law, the legislation has determined that

“[w]hile co-parenting is not appropriate in all circumstances following dissolution of marriage or legal separation, the general assembly finds and declares that, in most circumstances, it is in the best interest of all parties to encourage frequent and continuing contact between each parent and the minor children of the marriage after the parents have separated or dissolved their marriage. In order to effectuate this goal when appropriate, the general assembly urges parents to share the rights and responsibilities of child-rearing and to encourage the love, affection, and contact between the children and the parents.”[2]

In other words, joint custody, aka parenting time (and decision-making) is favored.  However, there are circumstances where such a presumption is not used by the courts.  For example, if there is an allegation of domestic violence, the courts must consider special factors in determining parental responsibilities.[3]  Additionally, “[i]f the court finds that one of the parties has committed child abuse or neglect, then it shall not be in the best interests of the child to allocate mutual decision-making with respect to any issue over the objection of the other party or the legal representative of the child.”[4] Put simply, this means if a parent is found to have committed child abuse by a preponderance of the evidence (which means it is more likely than not or 51%), then the court must find it is not in the child’s best interest to allocate equal decision-making over the objection of the other parent.

Conclusion

When seeking initial orders or a modification of orders, it is important to understand the statutes and the standards involved.  If your looking for an attorney to assist you in your domestic case, give my firm a call.  I’d be happy to review your case with you and determine how I can best assist you.

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[1] See here and here.

[2] Colorado Revised Statute (C.R.S.) 14-10-124.

[3] C.R.S. 14-10-124(4).

[4] C.R.S. 14-10-124(4)(a)(I).


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