Colorado allows persons who are not the biological parents of a child to legally obtain rights to a child just like that of a parent, even over the objection of a biological parent. These rights can include a role in making decisions for the child as well as visitation time with the child. These custody rights are available to a grandparent who has taken care of a child for a specific period of time or who are currently taking care of the child today. Grandparents also have rights to spend time with their grandchildren based solely upon being a grandparent, without concern to whether the child has lived with the grandparent or not.

The situation to effectively become a third parent and have some custody rights to a child is limited to specific sets of fact circumstances and minimum events must have happened. The attorneys of Fellows & Quenzer handle a great number of both types of grandparent rights cases. The situations for the grandparent to become a "third parent" are detailed Colorado Revised Statutes 14-10-123. This statute enables grandparents to take custody of their grandchildren when the actual parents are failing the child. For grandparents who do not meet the requirements of 14-10-123, Colorado also provides separate express rights to grandparents to be involved in the lives of their grandchildren. Colorado has a specific statute for grandparent rights, Colorado Revised Statutes 19-1-117, titled Visitation Rights of Grandparents. This grandparent visitation statute is limited in how much time a Court can really order for visits with grandchildren and does not allow for the grandparent to be involved in making decisions for the child. However, 19-1-117 is very useful for a grandparent who wants to see their grandchildren and the parents are refusing such access. 14-10-123 offers a great deal more involvement and more time for a grandparent with their grandchild. At Fellows & Quenzer, whenever possible we use 14-10-123 for asserting a grandparent's right to access to their grandchildren.

Under 14-10-123, to have the Court hear a case to become an effective "third parent", with custody rights to be respected by the parents, one of the following sets of circumstances must apply, 1) when the child is today not living with either parent and there is some connection of the nonparent to the child, such as being the grandparent 2) the child is currently living with the grandparent and not living with either parent, 3) the grandparent has had the physical care of the child for a period of six months or more and comes to the Court while currently caring for the child or comes to court within six months of last taking care of the child. For circumstance number three, the fact that the child's parent is also living with the grandparent does not matter as long as the grandparent is actually taking care of the child. To be successful in this type of grandparent as a third parent case, it is imperative that the grandparent consult with competent counsel. For these cases, it is very helpful to have an attorney explain to the Court why the grandparent falls under the limited circumstances of 14-10-123 and to follow all the procedural rules to move the case to a permanent order of the court to award custody rights to the grandparent. There are numerous hurdles to complete a nonparent custody case, but it can successfully be accomplished. A grandparent can do what is needed to protect their grandchildren as well as provide an environment where the grandchildren will thrive when the biological parents cannot properly take care of their own children.

For visitation only as provided by 19-1-117, a grandparent can ask the court to order reasonable visitation over the objection of the parents. The definition of reasonable visitation really depends upon the past pattern of involvement of the grandparent with the child, what frequency of visitation is in the best interests of the child and who the Judge is for the case. Judges do differ on what they think is reasonable visitation for grandparents. In most cases, depending upon the geographic distance between the grandparent and child, it is reasonable to have a set schedule of visitation for a weekend each month or to have a dinner visit every other week. Each case is unique and what is reasonable visitation will vary and could include a great deal of time consisting of weekly dinner visits as well as every other weekend plus several weeks each summer for vacation trips.

Under 19-1-117, a grandparent can demand to see their grandchildren if a specific set of circumstances exist. In general, the necessary circumstances fall into four categories: 1) the parents of the child were involved or are currently involved in a custody case or divorce case, 2) the child has been placed outside of the parent's home, 3) custody rights to the child have been given to a nonparent, third party, 4) the grandchild's parent who is the child of the grandparent has passed away. It is advisable to have an attorney involved to pursue a grandparent visitation case pursuant to 19-1-117. There are some complexities in the law and the grandparents' rights case will have to be presented in a particular fashion to be successful. A grandparent can typically only request the court to require grandparent visitation once every two years. If a case is unsuccessful, a grandparent will have to wait two years before they can try again.

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