Grandparents who are seeking either visitation rights or custody of their grandchildren should understand the Colorado laws that apply.
Last year, a Colorado county jail deputy was arrested and indicted on charges of murdering his wife. According to The Tribune, the deceased woman's parents filed a petition in Colorado to receive temporary custody of the couple's children. However, the request was denied. Technically, the children's home state at the time was Indiana, and the state court therefore lacked jurisdiction.
The grandparents, however, were interested in simply getting their parental rights to the children recognized. Colorado law does clearly define when and how grandparents can gain custody of or visit with children.
The Colorado Bar Association points out that state law allows for grandparents to seek visitation rights. A court may issued an order to protect grandparents' visitation rights in the following situations:
- When the parents' marriage is annulled or ended, or the couple is legally separated
- When non-married parents have received a court order for parental responsibility
- When the parents no longer have responsibility of the children
- When a parent has died and the party seeking visitation rights is the parent of that parent
It is important to note that if the child's welfare has never been questioned, the court will not permit grandparents to sue for visitation rights. Further, if a child is adopted, the visitation rights could be terminated.
To obtain a visitation order, grandparents must file a motion or affidavit in a district court in the county where the grandchild or grandchildren live. Colorado Legal Services points out that grandparents must submit facts supporting their claim along with the application.
The Colorado Bar Association reports that more than 35,000 grandparents in the state live with their grandchildren. In some of those cases, the grandparents have filed for custody, or, as the state calls it, the allocation of parental responsibilities. Grandparents will only be able to request custody in certain circumstances. For example, the child must not have been living in the care of his or her parent or parents. Alternatively, the child may have been living with the grandparent for at least 182 days.
To determine whether or not a grandparent will gain custody, a court will assess the physical amount of time a child has been with the person in addition to the relationship between the two. The parents' wishes and even the wishes of the child will be considered as well. Colorado law does note that the grandparent will be evaluated for any instance of child abuse.
When parents and grandparents are sharing responsibility, the Colorado Bar Association points out that putting a power of attorney in place may be advisable. That way, grandparents have the authority to work with the child's school or make medical decisions. For a more permanent situation, grandparents can gain legal guardianship of the children.
As the Colorado Bar Association notes, a court's responsibility is to do what is best for the child. Anyone with questions about grandparents' rights should consult with an attorney.