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Steps to filing for Child Custody in Colorado

Establishing official child custody orders through the family court can be important to setting clear boundaries and rules for time with – and legal authority over – a child. It can also be critical to empowering you with enforcement options, should the other parent fail to live up to the custody orders in any way.

If you need help seeking a formal child custody order in Colorado, you can turn to a Fort Collins custody & family lawyer at the Cossitt Law Firm, LLC for effective help and exceptional representation.

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Our attorneys have extensive experience advocating parents’ rights and helping them resolve various issues related to child custody. We are ready to meet with, advise and represent you whenever you are ready for experienced help and support with your child custody case.

Meanwhile, you are invited to continue exploring the rest of this page for additional information regarding the establishment of child custody orders in Colorado.

What Child Custody Orders Cover: Parenting Time & Decision-Making Responsibilities

Before pursuing any custody-related request with a Colorado court, it’s first important to understand that the term “child custody” is no longer used by Colorado family courts.

Instead, custody is referred to as “parental responsibilities,” which includes both:

  • Parenting time – This is the physical time each parent gets with a child. A parenting plan will generally outline how this time is divided between each parent.
  • Decision-making responsibilities – This refers to each parent’s legal authority to make decisions regarding a child’s upbringing, welfare, etc.

Parenting time and decision-making responsibilities do not have to be split the same way. For example, while a court may award one parent with more parenting time (i.e., primary physical custody), it may also decree that both parents have equal decision-making responsibilities (i.e., a 50-50 split).

Whenever a Colorado court is establishing child custody, it will focus on making determinations that serve the best interests of the involved child(ren).

How Do I Know What Colorado Child/Court Custody Forms I Need for My Case?

The steps you need to take to petition a Colorado family court for a child custody order will depend on various factors, like (but not necessarily limited to) whether:

  • You need an emergency custody order – Emergency custody orders can be necessary when domestic violence or abuse is a factor. In these situations, hearings can occur relatively quickly (like within 48 hours, for example) to review the request for an emergency custody order. If these orders are granted, they usually come with an expiration date, at which time another hearing will occur to evaluate whether the order should remain in place.
  • You are also filing for divorce – If so, you may need to file a petition for temporary child custody orders that will remain in place as your divorce proceeds. Commonly, temporary child custody orders will be replaced by permanent orders when the divorce is finalized.
  • You are seeking custody orders outside of a divorce case – If custody needs to be established between unmarried parents, seeking permanent child custody orders will be necessary. Though referred to as “permanent,” these orders can be modified in the future (when certain circumstances change).
  • You and the other parent agree on all custody-related issues – If there are no disputes regarding child custody, you and the other parent can file the custody petition jointly.

Different court forms1 will need to be completed and filed based on the type of order you are seeking. A family law attorney at the Cossitt Law Firm, LLC can provide you with more details about the specific forms (and other factors) that are necessary for establishing child custody orders in Colorado.

What Steps Should I Take to File for Child Custody in Colorado?

In general, here are the steps that parents should take to open up a child custody case in Colorado:

  1. Attempt to talk to the other parent about custody first, whenever possible: If you and the other parent can have a civil discussion, see what points you agree and/or disagree on when it comes to parenting time and legal custody. If you can work out an agreement, you can create a parenting plan with the other parenting, getting it notarized and filing it with the court for review and approval. This is often the fastest, least expensive way to establish custody. Even if you and the other parent do not agree on some aspect of custody, a discussion upfront can clarify the points of dispute and what you need to do going forward.
  2. Complete & submit the appropriate court forms: There will be several court forms to complete, and the ones you need will depend on the specifics of your case (more on court forms below). As you complete these forms, keep in mind that you will likely need to submit supporting documentation for many of these forms, and each can come with its own filing fees.
  3. Have the other parent served with a copy of the court documents: Serving the other parent with the court documents is the formal way of notifying him or her that the custody case has been opened. Specific court forms will have to be completed as part of the service, and proof of service must be filed with the court once this step has been completed.
  4. Prepare for the Initial Status Conference (ISC): As the first proceeding of a Colorado custody case, the ISC is a mandatory meeting for both parents. During this conference, the court will learn about the points of dispute and set the schedule for discovery, briefings, and/or other procedures. While ISCs usually occur within about 40 days of the initial custody filing, they can take place before a respondent has been officially served with the court papers.

This, of course, is just the beginning of the child custody process in Colorado. What lies ahead depends on what custody matter(s) parents are disputing and whether they can resolve those without court intervention.

Custody Mediation

Often, the court will order parents to attend mediation for child custody disputes, urging and hoping that parents can come to an agreement on their custody dispute. Mediation can provide a neutral forum for discussing the issues and working towards a compromise. Even if parents cannot work out every issue, they may be able to make meaningful progress in some areas, potentially cutting down on the level of court involvement needed to resolve the case.

Some benefits of mediation for child custody disputes can include:

  • Faster resolutions, which can save time, money, and stress
  • More creative compromises and more favorable resolutions than the court could or would devise

Colorado Child Custody Forms

Parents opening custody cases in Colorado will usually have to fill out and submit the following forms to the court:

  • Case Information Sheet (JDF 1000)
  • Petition for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (JDF 1413)
  • Summons to Respond to Petition for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (JDF 1414)
  • Order for Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (JDF 1422).

On top of these Colorado child custody forms, there may be others to complete, if issues like paternity or divorce decrees from other states are involved in the case.

Click here to download Colorado child custody forms to submit to the court. Forms are available in Word and PDF formats, and they should be filed in the district where your child currently lives (here is a list of the family courts in Colorado, by county).

After you file all of the necessary forms and pay the filing fees, you will receive a Case Management Order (CMO), with your upcoming court dates, from the court clerk. Your CMO should also detail any other forms you need to complete and submit for your case.

Can I File for Child Custody If I’m Not the Parent?

Under certain circumstances, yes, non-parents of a child can file petitions for child custody orders in Colorado. Specifically, someone other than a parent can seek custody orders when:

  • (S)he has been physically taking care of the child for at least six (6) months.
  • The child is not in the physical care of one of the parents.

Other requirements may apply.

Where Should I File a Petition to Establish a Child Custody Order?

Generally, it’s advised that you file a custody petition in the county in which the child lives.

What Happens after I File a Petition for a Child Custody Order?

Once your custody petition has been filed, what happens next will depend on your circumstances, needs and the nature of your petition. For instance, any combination of the following may occur after your custody petition has been filed:

  • Parenting time classes may be ordered by the court.
  • Mediation may be ordered to try to resolve any disputed issues related to custody.
  • Additional hearings may be scheduled.

A lawyer at the Cossitt Law Firm, LLC can explain what to expect in your custody case so you are prepared for each step in the process.

Don’t Compromise Your Interests in a Custody Case: Contact a Fort Collins Custody & Family Lawyer at the Cossitt Law Firm, LLC

If you are preparing to seek child custody or need help resolving any custody-related matter, contact an experienced Fort Collins custody & family lawyer at the Cossitt Law Firm, LLC to find out more about your rights and options.

Contact us or email our firm to set up a consultation and discover how we can help you. If you cannot make it to our offices for this meeting, we offer consultations via phone and Skype.

With the Cossitt Law Firm on your side, you can be confident that you have an experienced advocate at every phase of your custody case. You can also count on our lawyers to:

  • Vigorously advocate your rights
  • Provide you with respect and personal attention
  • Tailor their representation to fit your needs
  • Keep you informed about the progress of your case, as well as your options, at every step
  • Work tirelessly – both in and outside of the courtroom – to help you achieve your goals and obtain positive outcomes.

From offices in Fort Collins, we represent clients throughout Larimer County and the state of Colorado.

1: Downloadable child custody forms from the Colorado Judicial Branch

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