Child Custody Laws in Colombia

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At Colombia Law Connection, we specialise in child custody issues, especially involving foreigners and cross border issues.


An introduction to child custody laws in Colombia

Child custody laws in Colombia are an essential aspect of family law that can be particularly complex for English-speaking expats and foreigners. At Colombia Law Connection, we specialize in providing comprehensive legal assistance to ensure our clients navigate these laws with clarity and confidence.

In Colombia, child custody decisions are primarily based on the best interests of the child, a principle that guides the Colombian legal system in family matters. The country's legal framework emphasizes the child's right to maintain a strong relationship with both parents, regardless of their marital status or nationality.

Custody arrangements can be either joint or sole. Joint custody is commonly favored, allowing both parents to have an active role in the child's upbringing. However, in cases where joint custody is not feasible or in the child's best interest, sole custody may be awarded to one parent, with the other typically granted visitation rights.

Factors considered in custody decisions include the child's age, health, emotional ties with each parent, and, in some cases, the child's own wishes. Additionally, the court evaluates each parent's ability to provide a stable and nurturing environment, including considerations of financial stability and lifestyle.

For expats and foreigners, navigating child custody laws in Colombia can present unique challenges, such as dealing with cross-border legal issues and understanding local legal procedures. Language barriers can also complicate the process. Our team at Colombia Law Connection is well-versed in these challenges and is dedicated to providing tailored legal support to ensure your rights and the well-being of your child are safeguarded.

Our services include legal representation in custody disputes, mediation assistance, guidance on Colombian custody law, and support in related legal matters such as child support and international child abduction cases under the Hague Convention.


If 2 parents split up, how is child custody determined between the mother and father?

In the event that two parents end their relationship, child custody is determined through a process that primarily focuses on the best interests of the child. This principle is central to child custody decisions worldwide, including in many jurisdictions like Colombia. Here's an overview of how the process typically works:

Voluntary Agreement: Ideally, both parents will reach an amicable agreement regarding custody. This agreement should outline how they plan to share responsibilities, including living arrangements, education, health care, and other aspects of the child's upbringing. If parents can agree, they can formalize their arrangement through a legal process, ensuring that it is enforceable.

Mediation: If parents are unable to reach an agreement on their own, they may go through mediation. Mediation involves a neutral third party who helps the parents negotiate and reach a mutually acceptable agreement. The goal is to resolve disputes without going to court, focusing on the best interests of the child while respecting the rights of each parent.

Court Intervention: If mediation fails or is not an option, the matter goes to court. In court, a judge will make a decision based on various factors to determine what is in the best interests of the child. These factors can include:

  • The emotional and physical well-being of the child.
  • The ability of each parent to provide for the child's needs, including emotional support, education, and health care.
  • The child's established living pattern (school, home, community, and religious institution).
  • The preference of the child, depending on their age and maturity.
  • The stability of each parent's home environment.
  • Any history of domestic violence or substance abuse.
  • Types of Custody: The court may award different types of custody:
  • Physical Custody: Determines where the child will live.
  • Legal Custody: Pertains to decisions about the child's upbringing, including education, health care, and religion.

Joint custody (both physical and legal) may be awarded, which means that parents share responsibilities. Alternatively, one parent may be granted sole custody.

International Considerations: For expats or foreigners, additional complexities can arise, especially if one parent resides in a different country. International laws and agreements, like the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction, may come into play.

Adjustments and Modifications: Custody arrangements are not always permanent and can be modified if circumstances change significantly. Parents can request the court to review and alter custody arrangements to better suit the evolving needs of the child.

In any custody dispute, it's essential for parents to seek legal advice. Law firms that specialize in family law, particularly those with experience in expat and international cases such as Colombia Law Connection, can provide invaluable guidance and representation to protect the interests of both the child and the parents.


How would mediation work if someone were to try and get the child custody issue rectified amicably?

Mediation in child custody cases in Colombia is a structured process aimed at helping parents reach an amicable agreement regarding the custody and care of their children after a separation or divorce. The process is designed to be less adversarial than court proceedings, with a focus on collaboration and the best interests of the child. Here's a detailed overview of how mediation works in Colombia:

Initiating Mediation:

  • Mediation can be initiated voluntarily by both parties or may be suggested or mandated by a family court if the parents are already involved in legal proceedings.
  • In Colombia, the family commissary offices (Comisarías de Familia) are often involved in these processes. These are local government bodies tasked with the protection of family rights, including matters related to child custody.

Choosing a Mediator:

  • Parents can choose a mediator who is a trained professional, often with a background in law or psychology.
  • The mediator must be neutral and impartial. In Colombia, mediators can be found through the Ministry of Justice and Law (Ministerio de Justicia y del Derecho), which maintains a list of certified mediators.
  • Alternatively, mediation services may also be provided by private entities or non-governmental organizations specializing in family disputes.

Mediation Sessions:

  • During mediation sessions, both parents, along with the mediator, discuss various aspects of child custody, including living arrangements, visitation schedules, financial support, and decision-making about the child's education, health, and general welfare.
  • The mediator facilitates the conversation, helps clarify issues, and guides parents towards finding common ground. However, the mediator does not make decisions for the parents.

Developing a Parenting Plan:

  • The goal of mediation is to develop a parenting plan that outlines the agreement reached by the parents. This plan should be comprehensive and cover all aspects of the child's care and upbringing.
  • The plan should also include provisions for future modifications, as the needs of the child and circumstances of the parents may change over time.

Legalizing the Agreement:

  • Once an agreement is reached, it must be formalized to be legally binding. In Colombia, this typically involves presenting the agreement to a family judge or the family commissary.
  • The legal representative of the family commissary or the judge reviews the agreement to ensure it aligns with the child's best interests and Colombian law.


  • After legal validation, the agreement becomes enforceable. If either parent fails to comply with the terms, the other parent can seek enforcement through legal channels.

Benefits of Mediation:

  • Mediation in child custody cases is often less stressful and more cost-effective than court battles.
  • It allows parents to maintain control over the decision-making process and fosters cooperation, which can be beneficial for the ongoing parenting relationship.

Limitations and Considerations:

  • Mediation may not be suitable in cases involving domestic violence, abuse, or significant power imbalances between parents.
  • If mediation fails to result in an agreement, the case may proceed to court, where a judge will make the custody decisions.

Mediation in child custody cases in Colombia is a collaborative process facilitated by a neutral mediator, often coordinated through government bodies like the family commissary offices or the Ministry of Justice and Law. It aims to help parents reach a mutually acceptable agreement that prioritizes the child's best interests and welfare.


If mediation breaks down or fails, how does the court process work in relation to child custody?

If mediation in a child custody case breaks down in Colombia, the matter typically proceeds to the court system. The Colombian legal process in child custody cases is structured to ensure that the best interests of the child are the paramount consideration. Here's a detailed overview of how the court process works:

Filing for Custody:

  • The process begins when one parent files a custody petition with the family court (Juzgado de Familia). This petition outlines the desired custody arrangement and the reasons why this arrangement is in the best interest of the child.
  • In cases where there is an immediate concern for the child's welfare, a parent may also request temporary custody orders.

Notification and Response:

  • After the petition is filed, the court notifies the other parent, providing them an opportunity to respond. The responding parent can agree with the petition, dispute it, or propose an alternative custody arrangement.
  • Both parties are required to submit any relevant evidence they wish to be considered, such as financial statements, character references, or psychological evaluations.

Pre-Trial Procedures:

  • The court may order a social study of the family, which is conducted by a social worker or a psychologist. This study evaluates the living conditions, parenting capacity, and the overall environment offered by each parent.
  • The court might also require the child and parents to undergo psychological evaluations to assess the emotional and psychological dynamics within the family.


  • A hearing is scheduled where both parents present their case. This includes calling witnesses, presenting evidence, and making legal arguments.
  • The child may also be given a voice in the proceedings, depending on their age and maturity. The judge may interview the child in private to understand their preferences and feelings about the custody arrangement.


  • After reviewing all evidence and hearing the arguments from both sides, the judge makes a decision based on the child's best interests. This decision will consider factors such as each parent's ability to provide for the child, the child's ties to each parent, the child's education and health needs, and the stability of each home environment.
  • The judge can grant sole custody to one parent or joint custody to both, depending on what arrangement serves the child's best interests.

Issuance of the Custody Order:

  • The judge's decision is formalized in a custody order, which details the custody arrangement and any visitation rights.
  • This order is legally binding. If either parent fails to comply with the terms, they can be held in contempt of court.


  • If one of the parents is dissatisfied with the court's decision, they have the right to appeal to a higher court. The appeals process involves reviewing the trial court's application of the law and the evidence presented.


  • Once a custody order is in place, it can be enforced through the legal system. If a parent violates the order, the other parent can file a motion for enforcement in the family court.

The court process in child custody cases in Colombia is designed to be thorough and child-centric, ensuring that all decisions are made with the welfare of the child as the primary concern. It's a legal process that requires careful navigation, often necessitating the expertise of legal professionals specializing in family law.


What happens if one of the parents makes a false claim of sexual or violent abuse towards either the child or other parent. How does this change the process with child custody?

If one of the parents in a child custody case in Colombia makes a false claim of sexual or violent abuse towards either the child or the other parent, it significantly impacts the process and the dynamics of the case. Dealing with allegations of abuse, whether true or false, is a sensitive and complex matter. Here's how such a scenario could change the process:

Immediate Investigation:

  • Upon the allegation of abuse, the court typically orders an immediate and thorough investigation. This is to ensure the safety and well-being of the child, which is the paramount concern in custody cases.
  • The investigation may involve various authorities, including child protective services, law enforcement, and medical professionals, depending on the nature of the allegations.

Temporary Measures:

  • The court may implement temporary protective measures. This could include temporarily modifying custody arrangements, such as suspending visitation rights of the accused parent or requiring supervised visits, until the investigation is complete.
  • If the child is deemed to be in immediate danger, emergency actions can be taken, such as placing the child in the care of the other parent or a safe environment.

Evaluation and Expert Involvement:

  • Expert evaluations play a critical role in such cases. Psychologists, child welfare experts, and medical professionals may be involved to assess the validity of the allegations and the psychological and physical well-being of the child.
  • Forensic interviews and evaluations might be conducted in a manner that is sensitive to the child's age and psychological state.

Legal Consequences for False Allegations:

  • If an allegation is proven to be false, this can have serious legal repercussions for the parent who made the claim. False accusations can be viewed as an attempt to manipulate the legal process and unfairly influence custody decisions.
  • The court may reconsider the custody arrangement in light of the false allegations, potentially favoring the falsely accused parent, as this behavior can be indicative of an attempt to alienate the child from the other parent.

Impact on Custody Decisions:

  • The court's primary focus remains on the best interests of the child. False allegations can be seen as harmful to the child's emotional and psychological well-being.
  • The credibility of the parent making false claims is likely to be diminished in the eyes of the court, which could influence the final custody decision.

Continued Monitoring and Counseling:

  • Even after resolving the issue of false allegations, the court may order ongoing monitoring of the family situation.
  • Counseling or therapeutic interventions for the parents and the child might also be recommended to address any underlying issues and to facilitate a healthy parent-child relationship.

Legal Representation and Advice:

  • Given the complexity and seriousness of false abuse allegations, it is crucial for both parents to have legal representation. Lawyers specializing in family law can provide guidance and ensure that the rights of their clients and the children involved are protected.

It's important to note that every case is unique, and the response to such allegations can vary based on the specifics of the situation. The Colombian legal system is structured to handle these delicate matters carefully, ensuring the protection and best interests of the child while also safeguarding the rights of the parents.


How long does it take to resolve child custody issues in Colombia?

Resolving child custody issues can vary in duration depending on the method used and the complexity of the case. In Colombia, like in many countries, the process can be expedited through mediation, but it may take longer if the matter goes to court. Here's an overview of the different methods and their estimated timelines:


  • Mediation is often the quickest way to resolve child custody issues.
  • The process typically starts soon after both parties agree to it or are referred by the court.
  • The duration of mediation depends on the number of issues to be resolved and the willingness of both parties to cooperate. Generally, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months.
  • The success of mediation largely hinges on the ability of the parents to communicate effectively and compromise on key issues.

Court Intervention (Litigation):

  • If mediation fails or is not an option, the case proceeds to court.
  • The length of the court process can vary greatly depending on the complexity of the case, the court's schedule, the availability of involved parties, and the time required for investigations and evaluations (if necessary).
  • Preliminary stages, such as filing motions and responses, can take a few weeks to a couple of months.
  • The court hearings and final decision-making process can extend from several months to over a year, especially in cases where there are contentious issues or a backlog in the court system.

Investigative Procedures:

  • In cases involving allegations of abuse or neglect, additional investigations may be required, which can prolong the process.
  • Investigations by child protective services, psychological evaluations, and gathering of evidence can add several months to the timeline.


  • If either party is dissatisfied with the court's decision, they have the right to appeal, which introduces another layer to the process.
  • The appeals process can take several additional months or even longer, depending on the complexity of the appeal and the court's schedule.

Emergency Orders:

  • In situations where the child's immediate safety is a concern, a parent can seek emergency custody orders.
  • These orders can be processed relatively quickly, often within a few days, to provide temporary resolution until the full custody process is completed.

Post-Judgment Modifications:

  • Even after a custody arrangement is settled, modifications may be necessary if circumstances change significantly (e.g., one parent relocates or there are changes in the child's needs).
  • The process for modifications generally follows similar steps as the initial custody determination and can vary in length depending on the specifics of the request.

It's important to note that these are general estimates and actual timelines can vary based on individual circumstances. In all cases, having legal representation can help navigate the process more efficiently and effectively. Legal professionals can provide guidance, help expedite procedures where possible, and ensure that the interests of the child and the parent are adequately represented.


Having your required documentation legalized outside of Colombia

If you are outside of Colombia while making an application, you may be required to have documents apostilled or legalised. For assistance with having documents legalised in your country for use in Colombia, visit one of the Colombian embassies below to find consulates in your area. If your country is not listed below, visit to see if there are options available in your country.

United States - Embassy in Washington, D.C.


Phone: +1 202 387 8338

China - Embassy in Beijing


Phone: +86 10 6532 3377

Russia - Embassy in Moscow


Phone: +7 495 797 8519

Canada - Embassy in Ottawa


Phone: +1 613 230 3760

Brazil - Embassy in Brasília


Phone: +55 61 3214 8900

Australia - Embassy in Canberra


Phone: +61 2 6273 2090

India - Embassy in New Delhi


Phone: +91 11 4320 2100

Germany - Embassy in Berlin


Phone: +49 30 2639630

France - Embassy in Paris


Phone: +33 1 42 65 46 08

United Kingdom - Embassy in London


Phone: +44 20 7589 9177


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