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Common Terms Used in Child Custody

If you’re currently engaged in a child custody dispute, or negotiation with a spouse, it is important for you to understand some of the key terms that are used by the court system to refer to many of these arrangements.

The Best Interests of the Child

A key term that you need to be familiar with in any child custody matter, is the “best interests of the child.” You’ll find that this term is used frequently, not just by your attorneys, but also by the court.

This is a broad encompassing term that is difficult to define, and no one specific factor constitutes the best interests of the child. A court may consider a number of different factors to determine that a decision is most in favor of a child’s physical, mental, emotional and psychological health.

Parental Responsibility

You might also find that the term “custody”, is no longer used much in Colorado. You’re much more likely to hear the term “parental responsibility.” The term refers to the rights as well as the responsibilities and obligations of the parent to care for the child and make decisions for the child.

Here are some other terms that you are likely to hear:

Sole custody

This is a traditional form of custody arrangement, in which one person is designated the primary caregiver of the child, and has sole custody of the child’s physical as well as legal responsibility.

Joint custody

This is a more modern, popular approach to child custody, and has become very popular in the past few decades. In a joint custody arrangement, both of the parents will share physical and legal custody of the child.

Parenting time

Also sometimes known as visitation, it refers to the amount of time that the noncustodial parent gets to spend with the child, outlined in a parenting time schedule.

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