What is child custody?
Child custody is the court process to determine two things for minor children: (1) parenting time and (2) decision-making. Colorado Law calls this Allocation of Parental Responsibilities ("APR"). Child support is typically also part of an APR court case.
How is child custody different from divorce?
If you are married to your child(ren)'s parent, you should bring a divorce -- or dissolution of marriage -- case rather than a child custody case. Child custody will be resolved through the divorce process.
If you are not married to your child(ren)'s parent, you should bring a child custody -- or APR -- case to resolve the issues of your co-parenting schedule, decision-making responsibility for your child(ren), and child support.
What is the process for child custody?
The first step is for you, your child(ren)'s parent, or both of you to file a petition for APR. Once you have served the other person with the necessary paperwork, you will need to schedule an initial status conference with the court to check in. Meanwhile, you must exchange financial information (disclosures) with your child(ren)'s parent. You should remain in communication with your child(ren)'s parent (or child(ren)'s parent attorney) to determine whether you can come to an agreement about one or more things. Next, you will need to go to mediation to try to resolve your case. If you cannot resolve all the issues in your case, you will go to a hearing (trial) to present your case to the court and the judge will decide what happens.
Once you have a court order, that may not be the last time you are in court. You or your child(ren)'s parent may bring subsequent (post-decree) court cases to modify your co-parenting schedule, decision-making, or child support.
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