Fathers’ Rights to Custody in Colorado
In Colorado, fathers have the same custody rights as mothers do.
Separation and divorce are difficult enough, but not seeing your kids can make it even harder. Most fathers don’t realize that they have the same rights as the mother in these situations. In most cases, both parents have the same parental responsibilities they enjoyed before the separation or divorce unless those rights are modified by agreement or Court order.
Here is what you need to know about father’s rights to custody in Colorado:
Colorado no longer uses the terms “custody” or “visitation.”
Colorado updated their laws a few years ago and when they did so, they changed the terminology used in custody cases. Custody is now referred to as Parental Responsibilities, and there are two pieces to that: parenting time (formerly known as “physical custody”) and decision-making (formerly known as “legal custody”). Both of these are outlined in a parenting plan that must be approved and ordered by a Judge or the Judge will determine these if the Parties cannot agree.
Custody, parental responsibilities, visitation, and parenting time are all used together in this blog to help you understand how these terms are used.
Fathers are on an equal Footing.
It doesn’t matter if you and the child’s mother were married or not, Courts want to see both parties heavily involved in the life of their child unless the circumstances and facts justify otherwise. Both parents are responsible for the health and well-being of their children, including financial responsibilities.
This is unlikely to change with a separation or divorce. Colorado prefers 50/50 custody arrangements whenever possible. This means that both parents have equal parental responsibilities (parenting time and decision-making). There could be circumstances where the parties cannot share parenting time equally but the parties can still make joint decisions for the benefit of the children and there is no presumption that mothers should have the decision-making. In fact, Courts prefer joint decision-making.
Majority Parenting Time is not sole custody.
In most cases, even if the child is residing with one parent more than the other it does not diminish the rights and responsibilities of the other (the ability to participate in joint decision-making). Some parents may try to convince the other that they have no rights and only financial responsibility for the children because the children live with them. But simply exercising more parenting time does not automatically take away a father’s rights to help make important decisions for the children.
Always know exactly what is in the court order. If parenting time is ordered and your children’s mother does not allow you to see them, you are within your rights to enforce the court order. Likewise, failure to include you in major decisions about the child’s health or education can be enforced by the courts.
An out-of-state custody order can be upheld in Colorado.
If both you and your ex move to Colorado and the original custody order is in another state, that custody order still applies.
Colorado will not modify another state’s custody order unless that order is registered in Colorado (one or both parties need to request this). Hire a family lawyer in Denver to see if your case qualifies for immediate action by the courts so that you can see your kids and make sure they are safe.
Police will not interfere weith a nonviolent domestic dispute without a court order.
If you and the mother of your children have not yet been to court, there may be no court order stating that you have the rights you claim. Although it is assumed that fathers have equal rights as the mother, police have nothing to enforce without a court order proving those rights and even then some law enforcement officers refer to these issues as civil matters to be addressed with the Courts.
As long as the confrontation is not violent, police are unlikely to do anything but keep the peace while you work it out. They consider this a domestic dispute, and it is the policy of most police departments not to intervene in these situations. If you and your spouse are both on the lease or deed to the property, police cannot even make you leave involuntarily as long as you are not breaking any other laws.
It is much better to contact an experienced family lawyer in Denver to protect and maintain your rights to custody. Our attorneys at the Colorado Legal Group can ensure you see your children much quicker than other routes to parenting time. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.