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Colorado Guardianship vs. Custody

When it comes to your children, you want to make sure they are well provided for, loved and protected. Guardianship and custody are two different legal appointments that are designed to do just that. Depending on your physical, mental or life situation, you may need legal assistance from a Colorado estate planning lawyer to make the proper arrangements for your children.

Guardianship in Colorado

A guardian in Colorado is a person (other than the parent) who is selected to protect your minor children or adult children with special needs. A guardian provides for and makes all life decisions on behalf of the child such as healthcare/mental health decisions, living arrangements, basic necessities (food, shelter, clothing), education, etc. This appointment can take effect while you are still living or if you should pass away. If you have passed away, the guardian you have nominated in your will is the one who will take responsibility for the children. If you have not named a guardian in your will, this person will be appointed by the courts. The best interests of the child are always top priority when naming a guardian.

Custody in Colorado

In contrast, child custody is awarded to one or both parents. This appointment is typically arranged when parents are divorced, separated or were never legally married. There can be different types of custody arrangements including:

  • Joint custody: both parents make life decisions for the child and care for them together
  • Sole custody: the child is under the care of one parent; the other may have visitation rights
  • Physical custody: the child lives with one or with both parents in different houses
  • Birds nest custody: the child lives equally with one or both parents in the same house (the parents move in and out)
  • Legal custody: one or both parents make all decisions for the child on matters regarding education, religion, discipline, medical care, etc.

Protecting the Best Interests of the Child

The courts determine custody arrangements based on the best interests of the child. They take into consideration a variety of factors surrounding the connection between the child and parents as well as individual factors of each including:


  • Age
  • Health (mental and physical)
  • If over age 12, the child’s preference


  • Health
  • Lifestyle
  • Ability to provide appropriate care (food, clothing, shelter, medical treatment)
  • Home life stability
  • Proximity of home to schools/quality of schools
  • Willingness to provide a loving, caring home

A Denver estate planning attorney like the team we have at The Brown Law Firm, LLC can help you protect your children by drafting a will with guardianship provisions. To learn more, please contact us at (303) 339-3750 or send us a message online.