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Family & Divorce Law

What Does Sole Physical Custody Mean For Colorado Parents?

By Tolison & Williams / December 27, 2018

When it comes to child custody laws in Colorado, there are two types of arrangement that could be granted by the court: sole or joint custody. Joint custody assumes that both parents have equal authority when it comes to decision-making and the children split their time between the two households. Sole custody assumes that one parent retains the majority of rights in regard to decision-making and/or the child’s living arrangements. Before we look at the two types of sole custody, a note on child custody: while other states use the word 'custody,' Colorado custody laws refer to 'parental responsibilities.' In spite of the different phrasing, family courts make the same decisions regarding where a child will live, how they will be supported, and the amount of decision-making power each parent has. In Colorado, every parent is recognized to have parental responsibilities.

The Difference Between Sole Physical Custody And Sole Legal Custody

Physical custody

Physical custody refers to living arrangements only. With sole physical custody, the child lives entirely with one parent or the vast majority of the time. Currently, if a child has less than 90 overnight visits with one parent, the other parent has physical custody.

Legal custody

Legal custody refers to the parent’s rights to make decisions on behalf of the child. Under Colorado statutes, this includes decisions about healthcare, education, religious upbringing, and other areas of importance. In Colorado, a parent may be granted with:

  • Shared physical and shared legal custody.
  • Sole physical and shared legal custody.
  • Shared physical and sole legal custody.
  • Sole physical and sole legal custody.

In the event that a parent has both sole physical and legal custody, the other parent may still have the right to spend time with their child on a regular basis. When parents do share physical custody, the amount of time the child spends with each can still vary quite widely. For example, in one case shared physical custody could mean that the child spends 50% of their time living with one parent and 50% with the other. In another case, the child may live with one parent 70% of the time and the other 30%.

Acquiring Sole Physical Custody in Colorado

There are several reasons a judge may award one parent sole physical custody. In some cases, this is due to the behavior or life circumstances of the other parent. If there is abuse, neglect, active drug or alcohol addiction, or the other parent doesn’t have a safe or stable home, it’s likely that the other parent would receive sole physical custody.

In addition to the circumstances above, the courts could assign sole physical custody if the other parent lives far away or travels extensively. In other cases, both parents may simply agree that one parent having sole physical custody is the best choice in their situation.

Ultimately, this issue is decided using the ‘best interests of the child’ standard. This is what the family court judge will focus on when they issue their decision.

Custody matters are difficult to navigate. There are both legal and emotional considerations. Whether you are attempting to obtain sole physical custody or your former spouse has filed for sole custody of your child, it’s important to move forward with adequate legal representation. A family lawyer can help you understand your options and provide you with important advice moving forward — contact us below.

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