How to File for Custody of a Child in Colorado in 2023

January 17, 2022

 Child in Colorado

In cases of child custody, the courts consider many different factors. These may include whether a parent is seeking to change an existing custody agreement, whether they had children outside of marriage, and whether they are currently married and filing for divorce, among mitigating elements.

The Basics of How to File for Child Custody in CO

Although many factors come into play, there are five basic steps that a person must take when filing for custody in the state of Colorado.

  1. Determine what decision-making provisions and parenting time are in the children’s best interests. In any scenario involving child custody, it is important for the parties involved to discuss the matter and reach an agreement whenever possible. A petition for custody may be filed by one party or by both, and filing this document is the first step. Typically, the Colorado court system has a preference for joint decision-making. This means that both parents share responsibility in deciding on major factors that affect the children, even when the children spend more time with one party than the other. In some situations, however, this approach is neither desirable nor possible. In this scenario, sole custody may be the best option. If this is the case, only one parent has the authority to make decisions regarding extracurricular activities, religion, health, and education. The filing party will likely need to outline in the Petition what they believe is in the children’s best interests and explain why.
  2. File the Petition. Any individual filing for custody in Colorado will need to complete the following forms:
    • Order for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (JDF 1422)
    • Summons to Respond to Petition for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (JDF 1414)
    • Petition for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (JDF 1413)
    • Case Information Sheet (JDF 1000)

    The individual must visit the district court in the county where their children live to file these forms. The district court clerk will provide the individual with a “Case Management Order” that details any other forms they will need, as well as the upcoming court dates.

  3. Serve the other party. If an individual is filing on their own, the other parent must be served with the court papers. This involves having a sheriff or process server deliver the forms JDF 1414 and JDF 1413 to the other party by following the “personal service” process. Once the forms are served, the court will require proof that this step is complete.
  4. Attend the ISC (Initial Status Conference). Once the documents are filed for child custody, a date will be set for the Initial Status Conference. This date will be specified in the Case Management Order, and both parents must attend this hearing. During this step, the proceedings for child custody will be outlined in detail by a family court facilitator, magistrate, or judge.
  5. Prepare a parenting plan and get it notarized or attend a hearing on the matter. When both parties are able to reach an agreement, the parenting plan they create will be the primary document that helps the Colorado court in ordering the custody arrangements for their children. It is possible for the parents to reach such an agreement on their own or with the help of a mediator. When the parties are unable to reach an agreement on their parenting plan, the courts will make the necessary decisions for them and their children at a hearing.


What Are the 3 Types of Custody?

In Colorado, it is important to understand the correct legal terminology for child custody laws. The state abolished the use of the phrases “physical custody” and “legal custody” in 1999. The term “parental responsibilities” is the proper term today, and it can be broken down into three categories. These three “types of custody” include child support, decision-making, and parenting time.

How Long Does a Child Custody Case Take in Colorado?

As in any legal matter, the specifics of each unique case dictate the length of time the process will take. However, if the custody arrangement is related to a dissolution of marriage, that case must be pending for no less than 91 days before a decree is issued by the court. After this three-month waiting period, the divorce can be finalized, and the child custody agreement can be settled.

Who Has Custody of a Child If There Is No Court Order in Colorado?

When a couple is unmarried in CO, the father is not given full parenting rights automatically in most cases. Even when the father has been present at the child’s birth and has signed the birth certificate, legal custody of the child is typically bestowed upon the mother.

What Does It Take to Get Full Custody in Colorado?

In many cases, the goal of the courts is to award some type of shared custody to the parents; this is often best for the children. There are, however, common grounds for being awarded full custody in CO. These include the legal incarceration of one parent, proven records of child abandonment, a history of one parent’s substance abuse, physical abuse, or irresponsibility, and a parent terminating their parental rights.

How Much Does It Cost to File for Custody in Colorado?

In Colorado, the process starts by filing a Petition for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities. A parent will need to complete this document when they file for custody, along with paying a filing fee of $222. If an individual has already been granted custody of their children in another state, they must register in CO to be valid. The filing fee for this registration is $166.

The Experienced Professionals at Johnson Law Group Are Here for You

Parents often don’t know where to turn when they are faced with issues regarding the custody of their children. Tensions between the parents may cloud judgment, and the courts may need to step in to determine what is best for the family. Our knowledgeable team can walk you through every step of the process and help you navigate the complexities of the court system. Reach out to us today to see how we can help you.

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Written by Family Law Attorney Myles S. Johnson
Divorce doesn’t have to be dramatic. For the litigants, losing your spouse is significant enough. But you can choose the way it affects your daily life. The only guarantee I can give is that the feeling that you have right now will not be the feeling you end with. This is a season in your life, and it must be approached that way.
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