More and more today, a rapidly rising number of children live at least some of their childhood with only one parent. Recent data shows there are more than two million single fathers in the United States. Why should we be concerned?
Fathers play a key and critical part in their children’s lives. While it is typically thought that their main role is to provide financially, there are many more things a father can give to his children that are afforded little thought. Fathers serve as role models, care for their children physically, and also offer help with their mental well being. They provide guidance. It is a sad fact, though, that when a couple separates, fathers must often fight to remain an important part of their children’s lives. Too often they must defend themselves as competent caretakers.
As greater and greater amounts of fathers are communicating their interest in being active parents, most courts no longer keep in line with the traditional norms associated with gender and parenting. In regard to family law issues, Colorado courts are gender-neutral, meaning they neither favor the mother or the father. It is a point of fact that such favoritism is prohibited by law. The court cannot automatically grant the role of primary custodian to the mother. Instead, courts decide parental rights and decision-making responsibilities according to what is in the child’s best interests.
Of course, it is still common for fathers to experience much difficulty when getting visitation or custody of their children. Some fathers face legal paternity issues, while other fathers are simply unaware of their rights and are unable to assert them.
Fathers must therefore realize their rights in terms of spending time with their children in the wake of a separation or divorce, as well as in terms of the allocation of parental rights and decision-making responsibilities. Among some of the rights that fathers may be entitled to may be:
- Paternity testing and marriage status – The matter of the paternity of a child often comes up, especially with unmarried couples. Under the Constitution, unwed fathers also have a right to have a parental relationship with their children. Colorado is among the 20 states that legally establish paternity after passing a state-approved biological paternity test.
- Custody – Just like mothers, fathers are also entitled to seek whatever form of custody rights they wish – whether this may be partial or full custody of the children. Both parents deserve the opportunity to have a relationship with their children. Studies show that children are better developed socially, academically, and psychologically if their fathers are emotionally involved in their lives.
- Parenting time – The central core of a father’s rights is parenting time. Even when the mother is adjudicated as the custodial parent of the children, the father should never be made out as a stranger or visitor to their children. Even as a non-custodial parent, fathers deserve to be emotionally invested in the lives of his children and have a right to parenting time.
- Decision making – Fathers are entitled to have a voice regarding their children’s health care, schooling, religion, upbringing, and other major and minor factors in their lives. While the court may decide on sole or joint-decision making abilities, it may be most beneficial for the stability of the children to have both parents with legal custody.
- Child support payments – When fathers are primary custodians of their children, they are entitled to request child support payments from the non-custodial parent. These payments help cover expenses associated with caring for the children, such as education, food, clothing, and entertainment. This financial support may also be used for household expenses and utilities. Fathers are also allowed to receive a modification or adjustment of child support orders if he is unable to provide for them financially.
- Modifications to visitation or child custody agreements – Fathers, like mothers, are permitted to request changes or alterations to visitation or child custody provisions ruled on by courts. This is especially true when there is a significant change in circumstances.
- Parental alienation – It is an unhappy fact that it is usual for parental alienation to be a major factor in divorce and child custody cases. This happens when one parent uses negative portrayals in an attempt to turn the child against the other parent and destroy their relationship. If in this situation, fathers are entitled to prove that the children’s mother is attempting to ruin the father-child relationship, and prove that she is unfit to care for them.
With respect to your rights as a father, you should not permit the law’s definitions of fatherhood and your paternal responsibilities, roles, and duties hinder your chance to spend time with your children. Irrespective of your particular situation, it is vital that your rights as a father are accurately portrayed in the courtroom.
If you are a father with children and are involved in a divorce, a possible child custody conflict, or any other kind of family law issue consult with an experienced Colorado family law attorney as soon as possible.