What Legal Rights Does a Non-Custodial Parent Have?

Price Family Law
Denver Family Law Attorney

No doubt about it, divorce and child custody matters are emotional. The emotional and mental toll a divorce takes on the adults and children involved is palpable. At Price Family Law, we have experienced family court lawyers who understand how to navigate the process, allowing you to focus on healing, whether you are the custodial or the non-custodial parent.

Navigating the “new normal” after a divorce can be confusing and complicated. Even in an ideal situation, a child custody arrangement means that neither parent will be spending as much time with their kids as before the divorce. 

As the reality of divorce sets in, you might feel additional stress and anxiety about the complex nature of child custody laws. You may even ask, what legal rights does a non-custodial parent have? To navigate through this challenging time and understand your rights and options, consulting with a Denver child custody lawyer can be immensely helpful.

Non-Custodial Parental Rights in Colorado

Courts in Colorado are focused on facilitating good communication and collaboration between divorced parents, as well as ruling in the best interests of the child. As a result, parental responsibilities are usually divided among the parents. Why? Divorced parents are motivated to talk to each other to make decisions about things like school, medical care, and religion. However, divided decision-making is not always possible, especially if the parties cannot agree on major items. 

Parenting Time

Ordinarily, a non-custodial parent is entitled to a prescribed amount of parenting time. This is usually outlined in the plan that sets forth parental responsibilities. 

The scheduling of parenting time is sometimes restricted for the non-custodial parent, especially if the child attends school near the custodial parent. This is obviously for the benefit of the child, to promote the importance of education and for stability and continuity. Sometimes, the court will build in extra visitation time during non-school times for the non-custodial parent, to make things more equal.   


The non-custodial parent does not have to worry about the primary custodial parent’s making a unilateral decision about where the child lives. Neither parent can remove the child from Colorado without an agreement from the court or from the other parent

Parental Responsibilities 

In 1999, Colorado adjusted the language they use surrounding child custody. Instead of using the traditional legal term of “custody,” Colorado decided to call it “parental responsibilities.” This reflected a movement by the legislature to foster relationships between the parties after a divorce and to help divorced couples transition to co-parenting separately within a prescribed plan.  

What Legal Responsibility Does the Non-Custodial Parent Have?

In a divorce involving a parental responsibility agreement, the parental responsibilities for both the custodial and the non-custodial parent are divided, as you would imagine. The arrangement will determine things such as:

  • who the children will live with
  • who will make education and healthcare decisions
  • how the parenting time or visitation will be divided.

The parental responsibilities are determined based on the best interests of the child. What does this mean? If the case is before a judge, the judge will consider a variety of factors in fashioning a plan for parental responsibilities.

What Factors Help Determine Parental Responsibility?

To determine parental responsibility, a judge will examine the following factors, always considering the child’s best interests: 

  • The wishes of the child, if they are capable of expressing a preference 
  • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with the parents, siblings, and others who may significantly affect the child’s best interests
  • The child’s attachment to home, school, and community
  • The mental and physical health of everyone involved
  • The ability of the parties to encourage the sharing of continued love, affection, and contact between the child and the other party (unless in the case of domestic violence)
  • The previous level of involvement of the parties with the child
  • The physical location of the parties with respect to each other 
  • The ability of each parent to place the needs of the child first.

Neither gender nor disability plays a role in the determination of the custodial parent. Even with all these factors and impending change, the goal of the division of parental responsibilities remains frequent and authentic contact between a child and their parents. 

Colorado trends toward a 50/50 split of co-parenting; however, a bill was introduced in April of this year to protect children from an award of joint custody in cases where there is evidence of abuse. This, of course, is an extreme example. Courts in Colorado still tend to divide parental responsibilities 50/50. 

How Can a Non-Custodial Parent Lose Visitation Rights?

There are scenarios in which a non-custodial parent can lose visitation rights or fail to be awarded rights of visitation in the divorce. In cases of abuse or neglect, domestic violence, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, mental illness and sexual assault, a non-custodial parent may lose or have restricted visitation rights.

What does this look like? Courts do not always immediately take visitation rights away from the non-custodial parent.  The court may instead grant supervised parenting time, restrict overnight visits, order the exchange of the child in a protected setting, or restrict access to the other parent’s address. Again, all these decisions are made in the child’s best interest. If you’re facing such a situation, considering seeking visitation legal help to understand your rights and options;

If you are curious about what legal rights does a non-custodial parent have, Price Family Law in Denver can help. We have years of experience navigating the confusing areas of child custody and divorce. In the midst of an emotionally challenging time, we can provide you with well-reasoned advocacy coupled with compassion for you and your children. Request your free case evaluation to learn what Price Family Law Firm can do for you. Contact our knowledgeable team at 720-615-1750 today.

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    Attorney Trista Price

    Trista McElhaney Price is a founding partner at Price Family Law, LLC. She specializes in high-asset divorce cases and legal matters involving complex business and financial issues as well as complex custody matters involving domestic violence, substance abuse issues, and mental health issues. Read Full Bio.