Many divorced or divorcing fathers believe that they don’t have the same chance of getting full or joint custody as their child’s mother. They may also perceive that they have diminished parental rights in the court's eyes, especially if they never tied the knot with the mother.
Certainly, there is some historical truth to this. When household roles were usually more traditional, mothers were often the primary caregivers as well as primary attachment figures. As a result, courts usually awarded primary, physical custody to mothers. But it is essential to understand that this isn’t always the case in Colorado today.
What are Fathers’ Rights in Colorado?
Legally, Colorado does not draw a line between fathers’ and mothers’ rights regarding parental responsibilities allocation, physical custody, and parenting time.
Courts view physical custody and parental responsibilities as separate but related things. For example, a father may live too far away to share 50/50 physical custody. Likewise, a mother who has to relocate for a job may see primary physical custody awarded to the father in order to protect the child from the upheaval of a move. At the same time, in each case, they may also enjoy equal parental responsibilities.
This means that regardless of whom the child lives with, both parents often have equal rights when making major decisions about the child. This usually includes decisions about education, healthcare, and religious upbringing. In the same vein, both parents may also be deemed equally responsible for caring for and supporting their children regardless of physical custody arrangements.
Should they wish to, fathers can choose to pursue sole physical custody or request a bigger share of parental responsibilities. In fact, the latest governmental statistics suggest that nationwide the fraction of fathers who chose to become custodial parents has increased over the past two decades — from 16% in 1994 to 20% in 2018.
Is Colorado a Father-Friendly State?
Yes, Colorado judges favor 50/50 parental time allocations between both parents. In practice, a 2018 parental survey also confirmed that dads in Colorado are most often granted equal parenting time. You can certainly negotiate another arrangement with your spouse and request another allocation of parental time, responsibilities, or living arrangements. If your requests are reasonable, most likely, they’ll be granted by the local court.
What Rights Do Dads Have to See Their Child?
Unless legally barred, Colorado dads have equal rights to see their children as mothers do. You can see your kids according to the agreed-upon visitation schedule and parenting time allocation. Colorado favors joint custody arrangements, where both parents remain present in their children’s lives post-divorce. Respectively, without strong legal grounds such as a restraining order or an emergency motion to restrict parenting time, the other parent cannot limit your time with the kids.
How Colorado Courts Make Child Custody Decisions
The Colorado laws state that all of these decisions will be made from the perspective of a child's “best interest.” As a part of your divorce proceedings, you are expected to come to a mutual agreement with your spouse on acceptable custody terms. Then, fill in and sign a parenting plan together with your spouse. After that, file this document along with other divorce papers.
If you cannot negotiate appropriate custody terms with your ex-wife, you’d have to take the matters to the courtroom. Here are some of the things that family courts consider when making custody decisions:
- How will the custody decision impact the child? For example, will the child have to move away from close family or change schools?
- What are the wishes of all involved, including the child?
- Who is the child most attached to, and who do they currently spend the most time with?
- Whether or not one parent has exhibited behaviors that are not in the best interest of the child?
Either parent can bring evidence into court to support a claim that he should have primary responsibility. Based on the above, the court will make the final ruling, which both parents will have to abide by.
Read more about joint custody laws in Colorado.
Can a Father Get Full Custody in Colorado?
Yes, fathers are equally likely to receive full custody of the children if such an arrangement is viewed as favorable by a judge. However, the other parent will still receive lavish visitation rights but will not retain physical custody of the child. Yet, the Colorado family is more favorable to joint responsibility. Respectively, in most cases, fathers and mothers receive joint (shared) custody.
How a Father Can Solidify His Chances of Winning a Custody Battle
The key to winning a custody case is to make a logical, rational case for the type of custody arrangement you want.
Prepare a list of the benefits your child or children receive from spending time with you. If you have moved out of the marital home, explain how your housing is appropriate and stable for your children to stay with you. What accommodations can you make to ensure that they can still participate in activities and get to school, daycare, etc.? Also, be proactive about how you’ll ensure that the other parent still maintains contact with the offspring. Show that you are ready to collaborate if the other parent decides to move.
All of these things should be presented to your attorney so that they can prepare the best argument in court. A great attorney knows the right questions to ask you and will take your information and “evidence” and develop it into a compelling argument in court.
Read more about filing for child custody in Colorado.
Responding to Allegations from Another Parent
On the flip side, if another parent tries to prove that you are “unfit” as a parent, make sure that you understand your rights. Remember: the mother of your child cannot deny your visitation rights without serious legal grounds. It is illegal.
So if another parent attempts to restrain you from seeing your kids, issues unreasonable demands, threats, or makes accusations, reach out to a family attorney immediately.
Fathers Seeking Custody Should Seek Qualified Legal Help
The attorneys at Tolison & Williams are committed to helping their clients obtain the best possible results within the law. This is true for both mothers and fathers. Dads who wish to pursue custody or a modification to custody are always advised to seek legal representation before proceeding.