How to File for Custody in Colorado
When parents separate or divorce, one of the most important decisions they have to make is determining the custody arrangements for their children. In Colorado, the court follows the best interests of the child standard when making custody decisions, prioritizing the child’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being. If you are considering filing for custody in Colorado, here is a step-by-step guide to help you navigate the process.
Step 1: Understand the Different Types of Custody
In Colorado, there are two types of custody: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody refers to where the child primarily resides, while legal custody involves decision-making authority regarding the child’s education, healthcare, religion, and other major life decisions. Both types can be shared jointly between the parents or awarded solely to one parent.
Step 2: Gather Necessary Documents
Before filing for custody, gather important documents related to your child, such as their birth certificate, social security number, and any existing custody orders or parenting plans. These documents will be necessary to support your case.
Step 3: Determine the Appropriate Court
In Colorado, custody cases are typically filed in the district court of the county where the child resides. Identify the correct court and familiarize yourself with their specific filing requirements, as each court may have its own set of forms and procedures.
Step 4: Complete the Required Forms
Fill out the necessary forms to initiate a custody case. Common forms include the Petition for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (DR 6.10) and the Summons (JDF 1413). Ensure that all information is accurate and complete before filing.
Step 5: File the Forms with the Court
Take the completed forms to the appropriate court and file them. Pay any required filing fees, which may vary depending on the court. Once filed, the court will assign a case number and schedule a hearing date.
Step 6: Serve the Other Parent
Serve the other parent with copies of the filed forms and a summons, informing them of the custody case against them. Proper service is essential, as failure to serve the other party correctly may delay the proceedings.
Step 7: Attend the Initial Status Conference
After the forms have been filed and served, both parents will attend an initial status conference. During this conference, the court will address temporary custody arrangements, mediation, and any other relevant issues. It is crucial to attend this conference and comply with the court’s instructions.
Step 8: Mediation and Parenting Classes
Colorado law requires parents to attend mediation before proceeding to court. Mediation provides an opportunity for both parents to discuss and negotiate a parenting plan. Additionally, parents may be required to attend parenting classes designed to educate them about co-parenting and the impact of divorce on children.
Step 9: Prepare for the Custody Hearing
If mediation fails to reach an agreement, the case will proceed to a custody hearing. Prepare your case by gathering evidence, such as witness statements, school records, medical records, and any other relevant documentation to support your desired custody arrangement.
Step 10: Present Your Case at the Hearing
During the custody hearing, both parents will present their cases before the judge. Be prepared to answer questions, present evidence, and demonstrate that the proposed custody arrangement is in the best interests of the child. The judge will then make a final custody determination.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):
1. Can grandparents file for custody in Colorado?
Yes, under certain circumstances, grandparents can file for custody in Colorado. They must demonstrate that it is in the best interests of the child and that the child’s parents are unfit or have abandoned the child.
2. Can I modify an existing custody order?
Yes, you can request a modification of a custody order if there has been a significant change in circumstances that affects the child’s well-being. The court will consider the child’s best interests when deciding on modifications.
3. Can a father get custody in Colorado?
Yes, fathers have the same rights as mothers in Colorado custody cases. The court makes custody decisions based on the best interests of the child, regardless of the parent’s gender.
4. Can I relocate with my child after a custody order is in place?
If you have a custody order in place, you must obtain permission from the court or the other parent before relocating with your child. Failure to do so may result in legal consequences.
5. How long does the custody process take in Colorado?
The duration of the custody process varies depending on the complexity of the case and court availability. It can take several months or longer to reach a final custody determination.
6. What if the other parent refuses to follow the custody order?
If the other parent refuses to follow the custody order, you can file a motion for contempt with the court. The court may then enforce the order and impose penalties on the non-compliant parent.
7. Do I need an attorney to file for custody in Colorado?
While it is not required to have an attorney, seeking legal counsel is highly recommended. An experienced family law attorney can guide you through the process, protect your rights, and ensure the best possible outcome for you and your child.
Filing for custody in Colorado can be a complex and emotional process, but understanding the steps involved and seeking appropriate legal advice can help you navigate it successfully. Remember to prioritize the well-being of your child and focus on creating a stable and loving environment for them.