Throughout the United States, the annual percentage of marriages that end in divorce remains high. When children are born during the marriage and a divorce action is filed, the Court will have the authority to assess the “children’s best interests.” When it comes to a father’s rights, the Court’s exercise of such authority means that in the absence of a signed written agreement of the parties, the presiding judge shall have the power to enter orders that define parenting time, decision making, and financial considerations that will impact the children.
Parenting plans that specifically address parenting time, decision making, and financial considerations of the children are most commonly found in the following types of Family cases:
- Dissolution of Marriage and Legal Separation cases
- Allocation of Parental Responsibilities cases, in cases where the parents were never married to one another
- Paternity cases, in cases where the parentage of a child is not established or agreed to
- Grandparent or non-parent parental responsibilities cases
- Step-Parent adoptions
Understanding Parenting Plans
When parents enter agreements concerning parenting, those agreements must be in writing, and are called, “Parenting Plans.” Experienced and highly-qualified lawyers, who practice Domestic Relations or Family Law, are familiar with the language and provisions unique to every case that should be used in drafting a Parenting Plan. A Parenting Plan that is signed by the parties and adopted by the Court as an order becomes enforceable and binding upon both parents for all purposes in the future. It is always best for the parties to avoid having a judge make arbitrary rulings as to parental responsibilities, when the better approach is for parents to take command to do this in a responsible and capable manner without judicial interference in their personal family lives.
When parties do not agree to a Parenting Plan, the judge is required to consider “all relevant factors” in the law and enter specific rulings regarding parenting time, decision making and financial issues. Financial issues that impact such cases involve Child Support, Insurance, and how expenses for the children will be addressed. Rulings from the judge normally are made, after the parties are permitted to testify under oath as to the children’s “best interests.” It is critical in each and every case where children are involved, that both parents become thoroughly familiar with the relevant factors in Colorado law, Section 14-10-124, that the Court must consider, so that the factors to be analyzed by the judge, can be specifically addressed.
Colorado’s “best interests” law as it relates to children does not allow for the sex of either parent to be considered, as it is gender neutral. This means that the Court shall not use the gender of either parent as a factor in deciding how parenting time and parental responsibilities, are to be decided or allocated. The presiding judge shall not use the fact that mother is a woman or that father is a man, as a relevant factor in giving either parent any preferential treatment in the court’s entry of parenting time orders. Therefore, father’s rights are to be significantly enforced in the same manner as mother’s rights.
What is “Allocation of Parental Responsibilities?”
This is the area of the law that grants the court authority to determine parenting time and decision making that satisfies the “best interests of the children.” It is a wide range of considerations which includes everything from custody and parenting time, to religious and spiritual upbringing. In each and every case, parents must be treated fairly in the Court’s assessment of what is best for children. “Gender neutral,” is the terminology used that must apply in each and every case where parental responsibilities are at issue. In all such cases, it is the parental rights of individual parents that govern, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. It is also important to understand that, “paramount consideration” shall be given by the judge as to the, “child’s safety and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the child.”
Father’s Rights refers to a movement in the United States and in each state where fathers have asserted their rights to be equally involved in the care and custody of their children. This movement started in the 1970’s and continues to this day. When fathers successfully argued in courts that they could do all of the things that mothers do in parenting children, a wave of change enveloped this area of the law. As a society, the changes that evolved over time in which fathers were primarily the bread winners while mothers stayed at home has greatly impacted divorces where children were involved. Those barriers to fathers having equal standing in being able to co-parent their children once divorces become final have become the new standard in “co-parenting” children in America. With more and more fathers proving that they can become impactful in rearing their children, with the same amount of attention and love as mothers, courts have become more accepting of giving fathers equal parenting rights.
Each case has facts that are unique to the specific situation of the parties and the children involved. Those facts often times include the ways that fathers have made changes to their employment or business schedules to be more available and ready to share in parenting duties, even in cases where a child is an infant. The more that a father can prove and establish a “past pattern of involvement” with the children, the greater chance the father will have in obtaining equal parenting. This typically means that a father must demonstrate that he has had an equal hands on approach and involvement in every facet of a child’s life. Here are some examples of how Father’s can establish their level of involvement in parenting:
- Taking children to medical, dental, and other health appointments
- Being fully engaged as a equal caregiver to the same extent as the other parent
- Attending teacher conferences
- Working on education assignments or home work
- Sports, coaching and other extra-curricular activities
- Quality alone time with each child
- Mentorship with children
- Specific examples of the bonding between father and child(ren)
Conflicts With Father’s Rights In Colorado
Father’s rights can be negatively impacted when mothers allege that a father is not fit to engage in equal parenting. Remember, that when a parent is alleged to have an alcohol or substance abuse concern, anger or violent behaviors, committed domestic abuse/violence, child abuse, or has a mental health disorder, or other such conditions, it must be addressed by the court, even if such allegations are untruthful. The truthfulness of such assertions may depend on what will most likely have a negative impact in resolving parental responsibilities disputes. Either parent may allege that there exists safety concerns as a result of a parent’s history of conduct that could potentially harm children. In thousands of cases where the Law Offices of Gordon Shayne have represented fathers, we have seen many such cases turn on the question of the strengths and weaknesses of the actual evidence. Fathers should always be prepared to discuss with their lawyers the anticipated allegations that may be used by mothers who want to show that the father is dangerous or engages in unsafe behaviors. Lawyers who see this kind of attack against fathers can provide fathers with a plan of attack to defeat unproven or non-existent assertions.
In many paternity actions, fathers face the possibility of not being involved in their young child’s life, because the mother only wants to establish a child support obligation and she does not believe that the father is capable of parenting their young child. In those cases, it is up to the father to step forward and demand that his father’s rights be considered. The measure of every father’s rights determination is for a father to actually prove the ways that the mother has objected to father’s willing involvement in the child’s life, to show that father is healthy and is a loving, caring parent. Absent some degree of conduct by father that is a prohibition to his qualifications to equally co-parent the child, a mother’s attack on father can not be based solely on father’s gender. Unfortunately, in these kinds of cases, the fight to protect a father’s rights and seek an equal role in co-parenting the child, is often the only way to let the Court know that a father will not accept a lesser role than what the mother has.
Call Gordon N. Shayne to Learn More About Your Custody Rights as a Father
In a career of over 40 years, Gordon N. Shayne, has provided legal advice and impactful, aggressive legal strategies to fathers who are interested in pursuing and protecting their rights to co-parent their children. In thousands of such parental responsibilities, child custody and paternity cases, we have successfully argued in the Colorado courts that father’s rights must be strongly protected and that they are consistent with Colorado’s Best Interests Standard:
“It is in the best interests of all parties to encourage frequent and continuing contact between each parent and the minor children of the marriage after the parties have separated or dissolved their marriage. In order to effectuate this goal when appropriate, the general assembly urges parents to share the right and responsibilities of child-rearing and to encourage the love, affection and contact between the children and the parents.”