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Understanding decision-making and parental responsibility

On Behalf of | Oct 30, 2023 | Family Law News

Learning how to co-parent after a divorce or separation is rarely easy. Ideally, you and your co-parent can come to an agreement, but that is not always possible.

That is why it is good to understand the basics of decision-making responsibility and parental responsibility in Colorado.

Unlike many states, Colorado does not use the terms legal custody or physical custody. Rather, the term allocation of parental responsibility is used, specifically, decision-making responsibility and parental responsibility.

Decision-making responsibility

Many states use the term legal custody when referencing which parent makes major decisions on behalf of the child. These usually involve decisions on education, healthcare and religion. In Colorado, this is called decision-making responsibility.

Courts typically grant joint decision-making responsibility, which gives each parent equal say in making these major decisions. Sole decision-making responsibility gives one parent the power to make all these major decisions, but it is only granted in rare situations.

Parental responsibility

Colorado uses the term parental responsibility to refer to who your child lives with and when. A parent can be granted joint or primary parental responsibility.

A traditional “50-50” type of parental responsibility schedule means that you have joint parental responsibility. However, each parent must receive the same number of overnights with the child for the arrangement to qualify as joint parental responsibility.

If one parent has less than 90 overnights with the child, the other parent has primary parental responsibility.

Can my child decide?

A common assumption is that at a certain age your child can decide who they want to live with. This is not necessarily true.

Legally, there is no set age that a child can decide which parent they live with. However, the child’s wishes are one factor out of many that courts consider when making parental responsibility decisions. The court examines the child’s maturity and ability to express their preferences.

This is a brief overview of decision-making and parental responsibility. Each case is different, so it is best to learn how these guidelines apply to you.