Fathers in Colorado who sought shared custody of their children after a divorce during the majority of the 20th century were often unsuccessful. During that time, the family courts would almost always favor the mothers when considering how to award child custody. However, in the last three decades, there has been a substantial shift in how child custody is awarded: Family courts are beginning to encourage mutual agreements that favor shared parental custody arrangements.

One of the two kinds of child custody is legal custody, which gives parents complete control over the decisions regarding their children’s healthcare, religion, education and any other aspects of their well-being. The other type of child custody is residential or physical custody, which is determined by where the children reside at night.

The divorce laws in every state will differ, but a presumption of joint legal custody is the first consideration of the family courts, and the courts are willing to consider, and often encourage, shared residential custody. Because arranging residential custody so that each parent has an equal amount of time with the children can be difficult due to logistical issues, mothers are often still favored when residential custody is split.

According to one law professor, views on the father’s parenting role and more relaxed attitudes regarding divorce are the two factors that resulted in higher divorce rates and the rates at which the family courts awarded shared custody starting in the 1970s. The jump in the divorce rate was preceded by the liberalization of divorce legislation.

A family law attorney may assist parents with resolving disputes regarding a range of divorce legal issues, including child custody. The attorney may explain to clients their legal options regarding legal custody, physical custody, visitation rights and child custody modification.