How Does Child Custody Work in CO If You Aren’t Married?

Parental responsibilities refer to the legal rights and responsibilities that parents have in Colorado regarding the care and upbringing of their children. This includes decisions about the child’s education, healthcare, and religious upbringing, as well as physical custody and visitation arrangements.

Child custody cases can be complicated, especially for couples who aren’t married. If you find yourself in this situation in Colorado, it’s important to understand how child custody works and what your rights and responsibilities are as a parent.

In Colorado, the law recognizes the rights of both parents, regardless of whether they are married or not. However, when it comes to determining child custody and visitation, there are some key differences between married and unmarried couples.

For married couples, there are statutory presumptions that someone is the natural father of a child. Generally that is a child whose parents are married when he/she is born, a child who was born within 300 of his/her parents  letting divorced, or the father is on the child’s birth certificate. That is not an exhaustive list of presumptions, however, only the last presumption would apply to both married and non-married couples. Unmarried fathers first need to establish paternity.

How Do I Establish Paternity in Colorado?

If you are an unmarried father who wants to establish paternity and seek custody or visitation rights, the first step is to legally establish paternity. This can be done in a number of ways, including:

  1. Acknowledgment of Paternity: This is a legal document that both parents sign, which establishes the father’s legal rights and responsibilities.Fathers can
    voluntarily acknowledge paternity, whether it be an acknowledgement through the court or something as simple as being on the child’s birth certificate.
  2. Court Order: If the mother is unwilling to sign an acknowledgment of paternity, the father can petition the court to establish paternity through DNA testing.

Once paternity has been established, the father can seek custody or visitation rights through the court system.

What Are The Types of Child Custody in Colorado?

In our state, there are two main types of child custody: legal custody and physical custody.

Legal custody refers to the right to make important decisions about the child’s upbringing, such as decisions about education, healthcare, and religion. In most cases, parents share joint legal custody, which means that they both have a say in these important decisions.

Physical custody refers to where the child lives on a day-to-day basis. In most cases, one parent will have primary physical custody, and the other parent will have visitation rights. However, it is possible for parents to share physical custody if it is in the best interests of the child.

Determining Child Custody in Colorado.

When it comes to determining child custody in Colorado, the court’s primary concern is always the best interests of the child. This means that the court will take a number of factors into consideration when making a custody determination, including:

  1. The child’s wishes, if the child is old enough to express a preference.
  2. The child’s relationship with each parent.
  3. Each parent’s ability to provide for the child’s physical, emotional, and developmental needs.
  4. Each parent’s willingness to encourage a relationship between the child and the other parent.
  5. Any history of domestic violence or child abuse.

Colorado Springs Child CUstody Attorney

In addition to these factors, the court may also consider any other factors that it deems relevant to the child’s best interests.

The Colorado courts have developed a self-help resource to assist parents who are seeking to establish or modify parental responsibilities. This resource provides information about the legal process, the factors that the court will consider when making a determination, and the forms that parents will need to complete to initiate a case.

It is in your child’s best interest for unmarried couples to seek custody orders after a split. While it may be amicable and you may have agreements at the beginning, issues invariably arise down the line. If your ex- withholds your child, the only remedy you have is through the courts, and you’re starting from scratch at that point.


About the Author:

Andrew Bryant is a well-respected Colorado Springs criminal attorney who has been practicing in the area for years. A Colorado native, he returned to the home he loves after graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Law. Now, he uses the knowledge he gained as an El Paso County District Attorney to fight tirelessly for his clients’ rights. He is AV-Preeminent rated, has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, and has been named to Best of the Springs lists by The Gazette for years.