Fathers rights in Colorado are equal to the rights of a mother, in the sense that the courts determine parental responsibility (also known as custody) on the basis of what is best for the child. They take into consideration factors such as which parent the child prefers, where the child lives, what responsibilities each parent can manage, and so on. In ideal cases, Colorado courts let parents decide amongst themselves how to raise their child together, through a jointly-written and signed parenting plan.
The court reviews these plans, and either enforces or changes them, based on factors like geographical distance between both parents. If you, as the father of your child, cannot come to an agreement with the mother on how to raise your child together, then the courts will intervene. They will decide on how to award parental responsibility based on the child’s best interests. There is a growing number of fathers that get sole custody. But courts do favor shared or joint custody.
Research also shows this is what is best for a child in general. Children in shared-parenting families had better outcomes than children in sole physical custody families, using factors such as behavioral problems, academic achievements, emotional health, and more. Shared parenting is not always an option, of course. It is important to understand your fathers rights in Colorado, so you can step in and seek legal defense if your ability to raise and be with your child is threatened or unfairly compromised by the mother.
Process for Establishing Fathers Rights in Colorado
The first step to understanding your rights as a father is to establish fatherhood. Paternity in Colorado is assumed if you married the mother and if your name is on the child’s birth certificate. If you are not married to the mother, you must file a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form with the mother to state officially that you are the child’s father. If the mother is not willing to sign the form with you, you must establish your parentage through a court action. You can file this action as a putative father, to become an assumed parent. A genetic test is often the quickest way to establish paternity if the mother refuses to sign the necessary paperwork.
Non-biological fathers (step-fathers) can become de-facto parents if they prove that they have acted as a de-facto parent to the child, and if they can prove that the child is not in the physical care of either biological parent. If, for example, the biological parents are often away and the step-father takes care of the child for extended periods of time, the step-father can file for custody. Or, if the step-father or adoptive father took care of the child for a several-months-long period in the absence of both biological parents, he may file to maintain custody.
Once you have established paternity, you can argue your right for child custody, referred to in Colorado as parental responsibility (which means decision making ability). If a decision of shared custody (shared allocation of parental responsibilities) cannot be made with the mother, the courts will decide how to assign parental responsibility. In cases where the courts award both parents a shared custody arrangement, they must agree on a parenting plan that will include each parents parenting time.
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Changing or Modifying Parenting Time Arrangements
Parenting plans may be signed and notarized, but they are not final until the judge signs and enters it in court- this can not be ignored. The parenting plans can be amended, so long as both parties agree to any given change. In Colorado, changes to a parenting plan must first go through the parents. In the event of a dispute, the parents can file a Motion to Modify Parenting Time with the court. In most cases (unless a serious issue has arisen like an emergency, abuse, etc.), the court prefers that parents attend some form of mediation before bringing the case back to court. If mediation fails or if an emergency situation arises, either parent may file a motion with the court and get back in front of the judge.
You can reduce the other parent’s parenting time by filing an Order Re: Modification or Restriction of Parenting Time, but only if you can present evidence that the parenting time is harming your child. If your child’s mother files such a claim against you, but she makes frivolous arguments or does not present any evidence, then she may be liable to compensate you for any legal fees you had to pay throughout the process of fighting against the allegations. Keep detailed notes so that if this happens, you can defend yourself properly.
Seeking Professional Legal Help
When it comes to your fathers rights in Colorado, you should be able to assert them if the other parent decides to try and undercut your ability to provide for, and care for your child. Fighting for parental responsibility in Colorado may require professional legal help, so don’t hesitate to seek assistance.
ASSISTANCE FOR FATHERS RIGHTS IN COLORADO
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