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What Is Decision-Making Custody in Colorado?

Creating a parenting plan is an important aspect of a divorce or legal separation that involves minor children. When a Colorado judge reviews your case, they need to determine both residential and decision-making custody between both spouses. Residential custody, or physical custody, concerns where the child lives most of the time and sets up a visitation schedule for the other parent.

Decision-making custody, or legal custody, impacts who gets to make important decisions about your child’s life. Physical and legal custody divisions can be different as long as they are in the child’s best interests, which is the judge’s main concern for child-related rulings.

What Does Decision-Making Custody Address?

A Colorado court divides decision-making responsibilities into two categories: major and minor. Either parent can generally make any of the minor ones without consulting their former partner. When it comes to major decisions that have a significant impact on the child’s life, which parent gets to make them depends on their child’s legal custody order.

Major decision-making categories include:

  • Healthcare decisions such as orthodontic treatment or surgery that can require both parents to consent
  • Education decisions about where the child should attend public or private schools or be homeschooled
  • Spirituality and religious decisions about whether a child should receive specific education, attend certain events, or observe specific traditions

Major medical decisions do not usually include primary or emergency care.

A parenting plan can include a provision for dispute resolution for situations in which the parents cannot come to an agreement. This could leave the decision to one parent or require the involvement of a neutral third party.

Joint, Sole, and Split Decision-Making Custody

In Colorado, legal custody or decision-making custody can be joint, sole, or split, depending on your family’s needs.

In joint decision-making custody, both parents share authority for major decisions about their child and they must reach an agreement before moving forward with said major decision. Judges often grant this type of legal custody to promote both parents’ involvement in the child’s life.

Sole decision-making custody is rarer than joint legal custody. In this case, one parent can make major decisions about the child’s life without seeking or receiving their co-parent’s consent.

A judge may grant sole-decision making custody if the other parent has a history of:

  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Physically, emotionally, or sexually abusing the child
  • Criminal activity
  • Mental incapacity

If parents have split decision-making custody, they each have sole legal custody in specific areas, such as one parent having decisional authority over religious matters and the other on healthcare.

Modifying Decision-Making Custody in Colorado

If you and/or your co-parent are considering a modification to your current decision-making custody order, the state of Colorado offers two options. If you and your former partner agree on the modification, you must file a stipulation with the court that issued the original custody order. If you cannot agree on the modification, the parent who desires the modification needs to file a motion with the court.

In either case, working with a reputable family law attorney can ensure that your parental rights remain protected and that you accurately fill out all paperwork. A lawyer can also recommend specific solutions that fit your situation and goals.

In Colorado, a judge can grant the legal custody modification if:

  • Both parties agree to it
  • It makes sense due to a modification to physical custody and parenting time
  • One parent has consistently let the other make decisions for the child without consulting them
  • The current decision-making custody presents dangers to the child

When assessing petitions for modification, a judge focuses on the child’s best interests. During the original separation and custody ruling and any modification process, the judge retains the right to make decisions if parents cannot agree on decisions that serve their child’s best interests.

Are you looking for a compassionate family law attorney in Colorado Springs or the Denver Metro Area? Contact Clawson & Clawson, LLP, today at (719) 602-5888 to schedule a consultation!

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