What Happens If You Don’t Respond to Child Custody Papers in Colorado?

What Happens If You Don’t Respond to Child Custody Papers in Colorado?

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What Happens If You Don't Respond To Child Custody Papers In Colorado?When matters of child custody arise during a divorce it’s common to feel anxious and resist the idea that a judge will decide when you can and cannot see your child.

However, if you’ve been served with a child custody petition in Colorado, you shouldn’t dismiss it and hope the matter disappears.

If both parents cannot agree on a child custody or parenting-time schedule in Colorado, the case must go to court for a judge to decide.

This may feel overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that courts in Colorado decide all matters in the best interests of the children. This is never as critical as it is during child custody cases.

What Does Colorado Consider as In a “Child’s Best Interest” in Custody Cases?

Colorado’s family courts uphold the standard of a child’s best interests in all decisions. For child custody, a judge begins with the understanding that continued close contact with both parents is what is in the child’s best interests; however, this is a rebuttable presumption.

In other words, one spouse can make an argument that continued close contact with the other parent is not in their child’s best interest and present evidence to the court to support their position.

In the end, the court reviews all evidence and testimony before making a custody decision, but for that to happen, the spouse served with custody papers—the respondent—must respond to the petition and either approve the spouse’s proposed plan or contest it.

What Are the Consequences of Failing to Respond to Custody Papers in Colorado?

Custody papers are commonly served along with a divorce petition during divorce cases but may be served to an unmarried parent by the child’s other biological parent.

In other cases, the court serves papers when the other parent seeks a modification of existing child custody orders. The sheriff’s department of the county of the respondent’s residence or a hired process server typically serves the child custody papers.

This is the court’s means of ensuring that the respondent in the case is aware that a request was made for the court to allocate or modify child custody so that the parent can participate in the process.

Respondents have 21 days to file a response to the petition, either agreeing with the other parent’s terms or disputing them with their own pleadings for different terms. If the respondent fails to file their response within 21 days the judge assumes they do not wish to participate in the process. In some cases, the judge might order a second attempt at notifying the respondent, but often the process proceeds to a default judgment.

What Is a Default Judgment in a Colorado Child Custody Case?

If a respondent fails to file a valid response with their pleadings to the court in their child custody case, the court may enter a default process against them.

This means the court acknowledges that the respondent does not wish to meaningfully participate in the custody proceedings. The case then moves forward without the respondent’s input for the judge to consider.

Courts enforce the child support obligation, but they do not enforce child custody for the obvious reason that it’s not in the child’s best interest to force a parent to participate in the child’s life. Instead, during the final hearing, the petitioning parent will receive a judgment granting their terms for child custody without further attempts to illicit the other parent’s participation.