parental responsibilities & parenting time
previously known as Child Custody

by Cory Gallagher, Denver Area Family Law Attorney

Updated on 06/09/2019

Dad and daughter playing


This page has mutliple parts including a break down explanation of what and how parenting time is decided. The second part includes Parental Responsibilities FAQ's and Tips to winning parenting time with the children.

Divorcing parents face a monumental task of making life-changing decisions.

Nothing is more heartbreaking than a child(ren) caught in the middle.

Cory Gallagher understands that the outcome of this legal matter will affect you and your children for the rest of your lives. He has the experience and work ethic to create a satisfactory arrangement regarding both custody and visitation for you and your children.

What is Parental Responsibilities?

A custodial parent is the parent who is given physical or legal custody of a child by court order. There is one appointed custodial parent even when parents share joint custody. The custodial parent will be the parent with a larger portion of timeshare. In a true 50/50 joint custody both parents could be appointed custodial parent(s).

In 1998, the legislature removed the term “custody” and replaced it with the concept of parental responsibilities, which include decision-making ability and parenting time. This change took effect on February 1, 1999.

  • Legal custody

    means the responsibility for making major decisions for the children’s welfare.
  • Physical custody

    means that the children spend most of the time with that parent.
  • Parental responsibilities

    are the sum of all the duties and responsibilities parents have to their children, including decision-making ability and parenting time.
  • Decision-making ability

    is the responsibility to make decisions in a specific area for the children.
  • Parenting time

    means the actual time the children spend with one or the other parent.

Allocation Of Parental Responsibility

In Colorado, child custody is known as "allocation of parental responsibility" or APR for short.

APR has two components:

1. Parenting time:

  • Where does the child primarily reside?
  • How do the parties split time with the child?
  • Is there anyone besides the parents, such as grandparents or other relatives, that have time set aside to see the child?
  • How will the parties exchange physical care for the child? What happens when the child is old enough to drive?

2. Decision-making: this component has two parts - major and minor decisions.

Major Decisions include but are not limited to:

  • What religion will my child practice?
  • What pediatrician will my child see?
  • What extra-curricular activities will my child participate in?
  • How will my child be disciplined?
  • What school will my child attend?
  • What child-care provider will I use?

Minor/Routine Decisions are the day-to-day items that include but are not limited to:

  • What will my child eat for dinner?
  • What type of clothing will my child wear?
  • What time will my child go to bed?
  • What types of chores will my child be responsible for?

Both components of APR - parenting time and decision-making - are agreed upon by the parties or decided by the court using the "best interests of the child" standard as outlined in C.R.S. §14-10-124. Factors include, but are not limited to:

  • The needs of the child for a frequent, continuing and meaningful relationship with both parents and the ability and willingness of parents to actively perform their functions as mother and father for the needs of the child;
  • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interests;
  • Which parent is more likely to allow the child frequent, continuing and meaningful contact with the other parent;
  • The child's adjustment to the child's home, school, and community;
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved, including any history of abuse of any individuals involved;
  • Whether any domestic violence, abuse, or neglect has occurred involving either party or the child, and what measures will best ensure the safety and security of the child;
  • The intention of either parent to relocate the principal residence of the child.

While joint-decision making is common, it is not appropriate in every case. Minor, day-to-day decisions are usually made by the party who has the child at a given time.

Like most civil matters in Colorado, APR cases are almost always sent to mediation if the parties do not have an agreement. If the parties cannot come to an agreement in mediation, the matter will be heard by the court.

Parental Responsibilities FAQ's

Is Colorado a 50 50 child custody State?

Typically, judges in Colorado order parents to share legal custody or have joint legal custody (called joint parental responsibilities). The 50/50 split of joint physical custody has at times been found difficult to implement, especially when the parents live in different states.

Is Colorado a mother state?

Colorado is gender-neutral between the mother and father. Meaning under child custody laws, each parent has an equal opportunity of obtaining primary residential responsibility.

How many overnights is joint custody?

Sole physical custody means that the non-residential parent is scheduled for fewer than 146 days with the children per year. Parents with more than 146 overnights qualify for a parenting time adjustment based on the number of overnights per year.

Who is the custodial parent in 50/50 custody?

In 50/50 joint custody arrangements, where physical custody is split equally, neither parent is established as the primary custodial parent. Both parents have an equal role as a custodial parent in true joint custody arrangement.