Colorado Single Fathers
Challenges for Unmarried Fathers:
While most people traditionally think of divorce when someone mentions child custody disputes, children born outside of marriage form an increasingly large percentage of the domestic relations caseload in the Denver metropolitan area. Fathers of children born out-of-wedlock face unique challenges in custody disputes. There are several steps fathers in this situation should be taking to protect themselves. Martin Law Firm will counsel single dads on what to do or not do.
Typical problems faced by single dads in custody disputes involving younger children:
- First, many people still believe that children under the age of three to four years old need a “primary” residential parent. which is usually assumed to be the mother. While recent studies call this idea into question, the bias still exists amongst a number of attorneys, judges, and mental health professionals.
- Second, single fathers are significantly more likely to have never had overnights with the child prior to the beginning of the court proceedings. Divorcing fathers normally have lived with their co-parent and the child for a significant period of time prior to the initiation of court proceedings. As a result, they have plenty of opportunity to care for the child on a day-to-day basis. They have given the child baths, fed the child, and put the child to bed at night. Single fathers may not have had the same opportunity.
- Third, single fathers may not have established significant co-parenting relationships with their former partners. Cooperation, communication, and trust between the parties are fundamental factors in any court decision relating to parenting time and decision-making regarding the children. When the parties to a case are unable to trust each other and communicate regarding the child, no one benefits. Positive co-parenting relationships are always encouraged in custody situations.
There are a number of steps single fathers can take to protect and develop their relationship with their child both before and during any custody dispute:
- Get to know the child’s care providers. This includes attending as many doctor’s appointments as possible, attending parent-teacher conferences, and making sure any daycare providers know you and know you are the child’s father. This gives you independent access to information relating to the child’s medical needs and other important information. It also shows your dedication and commitment to the child. Child and Family Investigators will often talk to doctors, teachers and daycare providers. It will raise questions if they have never met you or talked to you.
- Document your interactions with your child and your co-parent. It doesn’t have to be excessive, but having a calendar and/or a parenting journal can be very helpful both for your role as a parent and for the Court process. There will often be disputes between parties in this situation over how much actual involvement the father has had in the child’s life prior to the beginning of the Court proceeding. Having an ongoing calendar showing when the child was in your care can be very influential in determining which side is presenting a more accurate picture. A parenting journal where you keeps notes about how the child is behaving, when they ate dinner and went to bed, and other important information will not only help show your involvement with the child while the child is in your care but may also help you notice when something is out of the ordinary. Documenting interactions with the co-parent will help you remember important dates that might be forgotten six months down the line.
- Take an age-appropriate parenting class. This advice applies primarily to first-time fathers of younger children. It is common for the other side to allege or raise concerns that a first-time father will not know how to care for the child properly. Taking a parenting class for toddlers or infants or whatever your situation may be will show your dedication, help ease the concerns of the other party, and help you in effectively parenting your child. Boot Camp for New Dads has workshops mentored by other fathers.
The steps listed above can make a big difference in many parental responsibility (APR) cases. It is best to consult with Martin Law Firm regarding the specifics of your case before engaging in any proceedings. It is important to remember that many custody determinations are made as a result of events that happened prior to the beginning of legal action. Showing your determination and commitment from day one is the best to protect your relationship with your child. Martin Law Firm can provide the single dad with assistance in establishing and maintaining the important relationship with his child.
It is important to note two things with regard to paternity testing:
- Requesting a paternity test cannot factor into the Court’s decision regarding parenting time and decision-making issues.
- Failure to request a paternity test during the initial proceedings will prevent someone from having the right to challenge a determination of paternity at a later point. Thus, if there is any doubt regarding the possible parentage of the child, it is important to request a paternity test as soon as feasible.
Information regarding where to obtain a paternity test is found at this link.
The information provided above is general in nature, is not intended as legal advice for your particular situation and should not be relied upon without first consulting with legal counsel. Martin Law Firm provides legal representation to new dads and in father’s rights matters in the Denver, Colorado, metro area and will tailor its services to your particular needs and unique circumstances.