During family disputes and the dramas surrounding a divorce, the topic of who gets custody of a child is usually a highly contentious one. While both parents legally have equal rights to the child, the child’s mother may sometimes erroneously assume she has some advantage over the father in a custody case. As much as a lot of mothers would love this to be true; the law has a rather complex way of assigning power of custody. If you’re a Colorado mum currently involved in a child custody dispute, your best chances of a favorable outcome may rest on the professional counsel of a Leadville family law attorney.
Though you may not have any form of legal advantage, your rights to custody of your child are guaranteed by the law. However, laws on child custody aren’t very specific, they are fraught with lots of twists and bends. In every child custody case, the interest of the child is usually weighed above any other factor. Therefore, to win a custody case; among other factors, your lawyer has to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the child’s interest is best served by being under your custody. Yet, for some reason, mothers mostly face the greatest difficulties during a child custody dispute. To avoid such problems, it’s very important to understand your rights as a mother and the challenges you might encounter while trying to establish those rights.
Rights of a mother during a custody dispute
As a legally recognized mother you have the have:
Equal custodianship right even if the child is not biologically yours but legally adopted
Without much debate, you may not have any legal right to make decisions for the child whose custody is disputed if you’re a non-legal parent of the child. This means, if your partner – in this case, your husband, brought a child into your marriage, the chances of successfully getting custody is almost nonexistent. The best course of action in such cases is to adopt the child and become a legally recognized mother. When this happens, both parents are now on equal legal footing until other factors are considered.
Sole custodianship if parents are unmarried
In Colorado, when a child is born to married parents, the custodianship of a child is usually legally debatable. However, the mother is usually granted sole custodianship if the child was born to unmarried parents until a court orders otherwise. You also have the right to deny the child’s father visitation time unless compelled by a law court. This is possible because the father has no legal right to visitation unless paternity is legally established.
For the father to get a chance at physical custody, he must establish paternity anytime before the child reaches the legal age of 18 – or 21 in select cases. As a mother, it’s important to know that biological or genetic fatherhood does not necessarily imply the establishment of paternity. Though you could voluntarily acknowledge paternity by completing an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form, you could let the matter be decided by a court of competent jurisdiction. Legally, you’ll maintain the right to sole custodianship if the child’s father is unable to establish paternity.
No right to child support if paternity is not established
While getting sole custodianship may seem like a huge victory, it doesn’t come without its own challenges. Legally, a custodial parent is usually entitled to some form of child support. However, as long as paternity isn’t established, you’re not eligible to get child support from the child’s father. In Colorado, unless paternity is established by any legally recognized means, the father has no legal obligation to pay for child support. Also, the child might also be ineligible to receive social security or military survivor’s benefits if the child’s father dies or gets disabled in military service.
Right to claim the child as a dependent on taxes
We usually want to pay as little tax as possible. This means, when preparing our federal income task, we may try to chip in as much legally recognized deductions available to us as possible. One popular way to do this is claiming your child as a dependent and thus reducing your cost in taxes. First, as a mother and as a custodial parent, it is within your right to claim a child whose custody is disputed as a dependent on your tax form.
Right to both physical and legal custody
As a legally recognized mother, you have the right to both legal and physical custody during a child custody dispute. Just in case you weren’t aware, having legal and physical custody of a child may mean entirely different things. If you have rights to legal custody of a child, it means you have the legal authority to make vital decisions regarding the child’s welfare. For instance, you could decide which school the child attends, whether or not she attends dance classes and other general decisions bordering on her education, security and personal health. These rights may not, however, include the right to decide where the child physically resides.
The right to physical custody, on the other hand, refers to the right to a child’s physical presence with a parent – in this case, you as a mother. In a custody dispute, a judge may decide to award only the child’s father physical custody while also awarding legal custody to both parents. As a legal custodian, even if the child is staying with the father, you still have the legal authority to take part in decision making in the child’s life.
Sole custodianship if it’s in the child’s best interest
The greatest deciding factor of any custody dispute is usually the child’s best interest. Unfortunately, this decision is not anybody’s but the court to make. Yet, this could also be the hardest to establish. If your lawyer is able to establish to some extent that the child’s father is a danger to the child – and may impair the child’s educational, emotional or social progress – it’s usually much easier for the court to decide that it’s in the best interest of the child if the mother retains custodianship.
But things could get tricky if you as the mother has a not-so-appealing criminal record, maybe even a history of drug use. And then maybe you’re not quite financially buoyant, work two jobs and have little to no time to spend with the child. But then, the child’s father is a rather rich millionaire who may have all the time in the world to spend with the child.
Though your rights as a mother are guaranteed by state laws, it’s however very important to seek the counseling of a family law attorney before making any decision during custody disputes. Your actions may either negatively impact or totally limit your rights as guaranteed by Colorado state laws