When a child is born in Colorado to unwed parents, the mother is given sole legal and physical custody. The unmarried father has no custody or visitation rights. The birth of the child does not automatically grant a legitimate parent-child relationship. This holds true even if the couple is cohabiting or in a long-term exclusive relationship.
When domestic roles were typically more traditional, the mother was often the immediate caregiver as well as the child’s primary attachment figure. Courts therefore usually awarded physical custody to mothers. That isn’t always the case today, however, and there are ways for unmarried fathers to legally obtain custody rights.
The law states that mothers and fathers should be treated equally when deciding upon custody. In actual practice, family courts and government agencies generally decide that a child should be with their mother unless the child may be harmed under her custody.
Colorado Child Custody and The Best Interest of The Child
Under the law, fathers should have the same rights as mothers in court. The following factors are considered when making decisions about child custody:
- How the child will be affected by the decision
- The wishes of the parents as well as the child
- Which parent the child is most attached to
- Which parent the child spends most time with
- Whether or not a parent showed behaviors that can negatively impact the child
When hearing custody cases, Colorado courts base their decision on what they think are the best interests of the child. While custody may typically placed with the mother, the law does not make it mandatory.
Why is there a need to establish paternity in Colorado?
An unmarried father is not automatically regarded as a legal father. By default, they are not presumed to be biologically related to their child since paternity is not established. Because of the absence of a legal marriage, enforcing paternal rights and obligations gets more complicated for the unmarried father. He must take steps to establish paternity even if his name appears on the child’s birth certificate.
Proving paternity makes the unmarried man the child’s father before the law. This puts him in a better legal position to seek more involvement with his child. This includes the right to custody or visitation.
Identifying himself as the child’s legal father will ensure an unmarried father’s rights to seek custody and make important decisions concerning the child. He cannot request the Colorado State Judicial Branch for visitation or custody unless paternity is proved.
Maternity can be easy to establish but paternity may require legal proceedings. A court may order the mother’s cooperation when the father takes a paternity test to establish his parental status.
How do I establish paternity in Colorado?
The most basic way to establish paternity is to make sure that your name is on the baby’s birth certificate. Being present at the hospital when the mother gives birth and helping her fill out the birth certificate forms is the most uncomplicated way. If this is not possible, you can fill out a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form in your state.
If the mother disputes your paternity, contact the Child Support Enforcement Division or a similar government agency. You can also petition a court to establish your paternity. In Colorado, paternity can be established at any time before the child turns 18.
How do I obtain custody rights in Colorado?
After paternity has been confirmed, you need to determine your custody status. As a lawfully designated father, you have the same custody rights as a married father. If you and the mother are raising the child together under one roof, then custody is not an issue. If you separate at any time or have no intentions of raising the child as a team, you will need to petition a court to obtain custody rights.
If the mother is clearly incapable of caring for the child, you must petition for full legal custody. Consult with a Colorado family law attorney immediately and initiate legal action to establish custody.
If you are establishing paternity or seeking custody of your child, seek out legal representation who will help you understand father’s rights. Our family law attorneys at Goldman Law will help build a convincing case on your behalf. Schedule an initial consultation by calling us at (303) 656-9529 or email us by using the contact form on this page.