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What to Know About Child Custody and Non-Parents

— April 22, 2022

Depending on a family’s situation, a third party may be caring for a child.

While many parents hope to have good relationships with their children, that is not always the case. Sometimes children have better relationships with other family members, including grandparents, aunts and uncles, stepparents, and even family friends. For children with divorced parents, some of these non-parent individuals may even play a big role in caring for and raising them. Depending on a family’s unique situation, these non-parent individuals may even want to seek custody of the child(ren).

It’s no secret that many custody arrangements try to keep children in the care of their natural parents. Because of this, it can sometimes be difficult to difficult for non-parents to gain custody in Colorado. It’s not impossible, though. In fact, under Colorado custody law, there are a handful of different scenarios where non-parents can win custody of a child.

Biological Parents Do Not Have Physical Custody of the Child(ren)

One scenario where a non-parent may be able to get custody of a child is if the biological parents do not have legal physical custody of the child. Though Colorado does not have a definition for the physical care of a child, when a non-parent petitions for legal custody, the courts will consider several factors, including how often the child(ren) sees their biological parents and in what capacity, as well as the relationship between the child(ren) and the non-parent. Child abandonment is one way a non-parent can petition for custody. Additionally, if both parents are incarcerated, a non-parent can try to win custody of the child(ren).

Third-Party Care

Depending on a family’s situation, a third party may be caring for a child. Oftentimes, third-party individuals already have a relationship with the child(ren). From grandparents to aunts and uncles, to stepparents and family friends, many people in a child’s life may have an interest in gaining custody of the child, especially if issues are going on with the biological parents that make it difficult for them to parent properly. In Colorado, grandparents and other relatives can seek an Allocation of Parental Responsibilities (APR) to gain custody anytime they deem necessary. That said, APR can grant non-parents physical custody of a child and even legal custody, which means they would have the ability to make important decisions for the child(ren).

How do Courts Determine Custody?

Lady Justice; image by Tingey Injury Law Firm, via
Lady Justice; image by Tingey Injury Law Firm, via

When courts look at custody cases, there are many different things to consider. One thing that remains the same, no matter the case, is that courts will always try to make a custody arrangement with the best interests of the child(ren) in mind. A judge will consider the emotional, physical, and developmental needs of the child(ren) in the decision-making process, and will examine the following:

  • The ability of the biological parents to parent and meet the needs of the child
  • The wishes of the biological parents
  • The wishes of the child(ren)
  • Do the biological parents have a history of child abuse, domestic abuse, substance abuse, etc.?
  • The wishes of any third parties

No matter the circumstances, a skilled family law attorney can help families work out a custody arrangement that recognizes the best interests of the child(ren). Families in Denver, Aurora, and all across Colorado have access to attorneys standing by just waiting to help them out today.

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