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 eyes of the court, 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. It is essential to understand that isn’t always the case today.
Parental Responsibilities and The Best Interest of The Child
In Colorado, the court assigns child custody by determining the best interests of the child. While custody, now known as parental responsibilities may be placed primarily or solely with the mother, there is nothing in the law that mandates this.
In court, fathers rights are equal to the mothers. Here are some of the things that family courts consider when making decisions about custody:
- 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?
Physical Custody and Joint Parental Responsibilities
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 who the child lives with, both parents often have equal rights when it comes to 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.
Fathers Pursuing Their Parental Rights
There is nothing within Colorado law preventing fathers from filing for full or partial physical custody or parental responsibilities. However, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee protection from family or societal pressures. Fathers may be urged to stick with tradition, or even be accused of attempting to ‘take the child away’. These pressures often apply to mothers as well. Non-custodial mothers are often presumed to be unfit in some way.
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 out legal representation before proceeding.