You Don’t Have to Be Married to Be a Parent in Colorado
Families come in all shapes and sizes. It is not uncommon to find couples who were never married now facing child custody issues. In Colorado, child custody is handled similarly for unmarried and married couples – with just a few differences.
The Law Offices of Andrew Bryant understands that child custody issues between unwed parents can seem complicated. After all, the law is not always easy to understand in these circumstances, but that is what our experience and expertise are here for.
Few legal matters are more important than determining child custody, making it a stressful and confusing time for many parents involved. With the guidance and expertise of the Law Offices of Andrew Bryant, you can rest assured that your best interests and those of your child will be properly represented.
Establishing Paternity in Colorado Springs
One of the biggest differences between child custody cases involving married versus unmarried parents is that when parents are unmarried, the father must establish legal paternity. This process is necessary to help fathers protect their rights. Otherwise, a father cannot petition the Colorado State Judicial Branch for custody or visitation rights.
The process is straightforward if the father has signed the child’s birth certificate. However, those who did not sign the birth certificate may have a more complex road ahead.
In Colorado, there are essentially two ways to establish paternity. The first is a voluntary process where both parties agree on the child’s father. Under this scenario, a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form is signed, a form that establishes one party as the legal father. The child’s name is then added to the birth certificate.
A person can also establish paternity in Colorado through court action. This is used in cases where the parents cannot agree on the paternity of the child or children in the case. When this action is taken, a judge will typically require the father to take a paternity test before attempting to determine the father’s rights and responsibilities.
Colorado Has Different Types of Child Custody
Once paternity has been determined, the case moves forward to resolve any disputes over custody in the same way it would for any parents who were married and now divorcing. In each case of child custody, the number one factor considered by the courts is the child’s best interests.
There are different types of legal custody that are important to understand in a child custody case since they directly impact the legal responsibilities of each parent. The different types of custody in Colorado include:
Shared custody refers to the child’s living arrangements when split between two households. In this scenario, physical custody is shared but may not necessarily be equal.
How much time a child spends in each parent’s home depends on what is determined to be in their best interest. Schedules for shared custody are typically set based on the school schedule of the child, as well as the availability of the parent.
When considering “joint custody,” it is important to understand that this refers to decision-making for the child, not where the child is physically. In other words, parents with joint custody will work together to make decisions for the child – even though the child may be solely in the physical custody of one parent.
In a joint custody arrangement, the decisions the parents can jointly agree on often involve medical decisions, school choices, and religious education.
The Law Offices of Andrew Bryant can help you to understand the differences between physical and legal custody in your child custody case, then help you fight for your rights as a parent while still keeping what is best for your child in mind.
What Does Colorado Consider “the Child’s Best Interest”?
Many parents want to know what the court considers to be in the child’s best interest in parental responsibility and custody determinations. Colorado judges will consider what the child wants if they are old enough to have what they consider to be an independent opinion, but ultimately the fate of the case rests in the hands of the judge.
The judge looks at a variety of factors to determine what is in the best interest of the child, such as:
- The safety of the parent’s home
- The child’s developmental and emotional needs
- If there is any history of domestic violence in the household
- The safety and health of the child
- The ability of each parent to meet their obligations to the child
What About Child Support in Colorado Springs?
It is not uncommon for one or both parents to be ordered to pay child support in Colorado. Child support is meant to help cover the costs of raising a child, and the court’s goal is to maintain the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the parents stayed together.
Child support is based on each parent’s income and physical custody of the child. It helps to cover the costs associated with the child, such as maintaining a home, feeding the child, educating the child, providing them with clothing, and sustaining health insurance coverage.
Contact the Law Offices of Andrew Bryant Today
If you are involved in a child custody situation where paternity must be established, you must consult with a knowledgeable attorney at the Law Offices of Andrew Bryant.
They know the law and the experience to help unmarried parents ensure that their rights are upheld and deal with any issues that may arise about child custody in Colorado, ensuring you have the legal support and guidance you need. Reach out to the Law Offices of Andrew Bryant today.