Parents, regardless if they are married or not, living together or not or in a relationship at all, have a right to a relationship with their children. Father’s rights in Colorado is enforced by state law, and laws have also been put in place to prevent the court or another government agency from interfering with a relationship between child and parent unless the child is in emotional, mental or physical danger. Under these same state laws, fathers have equal rights to time and relationships with their children, and the court is guided in making Colorado child custody decisions by the best interests of the child standard.
Effect of a Father in a Child’s Life
Traditional court rulings have seen the mother favored as the primary caregiver and the most important parent/child relationship in a child’s life, but recent research and court findings have also uncovered the important role a father plays in a child’s life as well. A father who is intimately involved in his child’s life, affectionate, and supportive has been shown to be key to that child’s development including language development and cognitive and social skills. Additionally, studies have shown that children with active fathers in their lives tend to be better behaved and get higher grades in school.
Establishing Paternity in Colorado
In the state of Colorado, the word “paternity” means the status of being a child’s legal father. The issue of paternity usually only arises when parents are not married to one another – this is due to state law dictating that a child born into a marriage assumes the mother’s husband as the father. When this is not the case, paternity needs to be established in the eyes of the law. There are two ways to establish paternity in the state of Colorado, and one is easier than the other.
The first and easiest way for a couple to establish a child’s paternity is by signing and submitting a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity” form to the court. The agreement to this form legally determines the child’s father, and after this has been submitted the father’s name can be added to the child’s birth certificate. At this time, the male who is voluntarily taking the child’s paternity assumes all legal rights and responsibilities of raising and caring for that child.
The second and more difficult way to establish paternity is by a paternity action through the court. Should the parents not agree on the child’s paternity, individuals have the option of submitting a paternity action to help determine the child’s father. Under state law in Colorado, any of the following individuals have the ability to submit a paternity action to the court:
- A child over the age of 18
- A child under the age of 18 with the help of a personal representative
- The child’s mother
- Any man who believes he is the child’s father
- A social services country department
- The Colorado Department of Human Resources
- Legal representation for anyone permitted to bring a paternity action who may be a minor, incarcerated, or deceased
A paternity action case can be started any time from when children are born up until they are 18 years of age. If children themselves are requesting the action, they have until 21 to submit the case. Once a paternity action has been submitted, the judge has the authority to request genetic testing for the child and father in question to establish the child’s biological father. In addition to this order, the court is also able to order the following depending on the circumstances surrounding the case:
- Financial support for the child
- Medical insurance for the child
- Physical and/or legal custody of the child
- Visitation for the child
- Court cost payments
- Genetic testing fee payments
Best Interests of the Child Standard in Colorado
When making any decisions involving a child, the court and case judge are directed to make a decision based on the state’s best interests of the child standard. This standard recognizes that having consistent contact with both parents is the most beneficial for the child’s emotional, mental, and physical upbringing, and neither the child’s father nor the mother begins a custody case with a greater right to custody than the other parent. The judge considers a number of different factors relevant to the best interests of the child standard including:
- The child’s health and safety
- The child’s emotional and developmental needs
- The willingness and ability of each parent to care for and provide for the child
- The willingness and ability of each parent to foster a positive and loving relationship between the child and the other parent
- The willingness and ability of each parent to co-parent for the child’s benefit
Father’s Right to Child Support
In cases where one parent is named primary custodian – meaning the parent the child primarily resides with – and the other parent is named non-custodian, it is not uncommon for the court to order child support for the custodial parent and the child. This financial support is meant to help pay the expenses of raising the child, such as covering medical costs, educational costs, and costs of living like shelter, clothing, and food. Under Colorado state law, a father who is primary custodian has just as much right to seek child support as a mother who is primary custodian.
In addition to having the same rights to child support, fathers also have equal accessibility to support when child support payments are not being made. The Colorado Child Support Enforcement Program, which is a part of the Colorado Department of Human Services, is responsible for helping both mothers and fathers obtain and enforce the child support orders they have been granted and can also play a role in establishing the child’s paternity should it be necessary. Fathers receive equal support in enforcing their child support orders as a mother would receive in the same situation.
How a Colorado Father’s Rights Lawyers Can Help
Since the mother has most traditionally been named the primary caregiver in custody cases, a father’s rights can sometimes be overlooked or not enforced as they should be. For fathers who find themselves not receiving the rights or support they need during their child custody case, they can seek the professional help of an attorney who specializes in father’s rights and child custody in the state of Colorado. These legal professionals are well versed in parental rights and fathers’ rights laws as well as the laws governing child custody in the state. Often times, these lawyers are able to help fathers gain the time they desire and deserve with their child as well as helping secure and enforce fair child support payments should they be named the child’s primary custodian.