Father snuggling with a laughing newborn baby.

“Alimony is like buying oats for a dead horse”

A now-retired “Father’s Rights attorney” in Colorado Springs used to have this quote from American journalist Arthur Baer in his advertising. Most of his fellow family law attorneys thought it was mildly amusing, albeit while perpetuating negative stereotypes. And ironically, while he advertised as a Colorado dad’s lawyer, in reality his “divorce law for men” firm had as many female clients as male. No sane attorney, father’s rights or not, would discriminate against women and thereby lose half of one’s potential clients!

I litigated several cases against that “Colorado fathers rights” attorney over the years, and he represented the wife in more than half of them. As he explained, women figured if he spent his career battling for men’s rights, he would “know all the tricks” and better be able to help them fight their husbands.

The same is true of the few attorneys these days who still advertise themselves as “fathers rights in Colorado” advocates – in reality, most family law attorneys have a healthy mixture of fathers and mothers as clients, and will fight for their client regardless of sex.

Graham.Law History As Colorado Father’s Rights Lawyers

Divorce law for men. Father's Rights in Colorado Springs.

I spent 8 years in the Army JAG Corps, and our firm has several veterans, which gives us an appreciation for the struggles men, especially men in uniform, face when trying to balance being good parents with having worked hard to provide for their families. When I left the Army in 2000 and entered private practice as a family law attorney, Colorado family law was changing.

Until the 90s, the court system was still sexist – biased against fathers in parenting disputes, and paternalistic towards women who were not always expected to support themselves when their husbands could pay alimony. But it was also a time of flux – by about 2000, the younger judges would consider equal parenting time for fathers, while the older ones were more likely to adhere to outdated concepts that mothers should have primary child custody.

Divorce Law for Men Milestones

I remember two early milestones in my family law career where I won victories for Colorado father’s rights:

  • Father Child Custody. The first time I won primary custody for a father (the parents lived in different states, so equal parenting was impossible). Even though it was clearly the right outcome in that case, it was still somewhat unusual for 20 years ago, hence I still remember it now.
  • Husband Alimony. The first time I won maintenance for a husband from his wife. He was a teacher, she was a physician who out-earned him about 4:1. And her attorney argued (behind the scenes – didn’t dare say this in court) “he’s a man – he can’t have alimony.” How wrong that attorney was – the husband was entitled to the same maintenance as a wife would have received in the same situation.

Custody Rights For Colorado Dads Established

Twenty-five or more years ago, custody for fathers meant every other weekend and a mid-week dinner visit. To paraphrase the old advertisements for Virginia Slims, “Father’s rights in Colorado have come a long way, baby.” Instead of being based upon the sex of the parent, Colorado child custody is now truly based upon the best interests of the child.

In recent years, Father’s Rights victories in Colorado courts have become commonplace, and while important to the father, the decisions are no longer ground-breaking, but reinforce the hard-fought gains which men won in earlier years. It makes sense that milestones are now rare – by definition, a milestone can really only happen once. And that’s also a sign of how far things have come. Another father’s rights victory is somewhat “ho hum”, as it should be, rather than being rare enough to raise eyebrows.

There is a recently-retired El Paso County judge who had a reputation for being pro-Father. She wasn’t really anti-mother – her pro-equality outlook was just a bit ahead of her time and made her look like a champion for Colorado father’s rights. This judge was strongly in favor of equal parenting for both parents, which means women trying to get primary custody because they were the mother would lose, and then grumble about the judge being pro-dad.

And this judge was strict on spousal maintenance – rather than simply awarding alimony if there was a disparity in income, she would truly consider need and ability to work, and expect both spouses to work to their potential even if one had previously been a homemaker. And so this judge had a reputation of being “pro-husband” on maintenance, but only because nothing was automatic and she made both sides prove their cases.

Legal Progress for Colorado Fathers’ Custody

In the early 2000s, I would tell fathers that I represented that if they were good, involved fathers, it was generally realistic to expect equal parenting time. But trying to get primary custody was a tall order. Sure, it happened in the occasional case, but not frequently.

In one case involving unmarried parents, I represented a father in his late 20s, and the mother was maybe just 20 years-old (she could have still been 19) who still lived with her parents. She wanted the dad to take a parenting class, not because of any particular parenting deficiency which needed correcting, but because he was a man. Her concern was especially misplaced as my client had actually raised his young niece for several years.

I held my tongue, and simply asked the mother to provide the details of the parenting class she took, so the father could take the same class. Her dumbfounded reply was that she didn’t need a class, since she was the mother. My client ended up with equal time, without having to take a class to prove he knew how to be a father.

Now, I can safely say with the utmost of confidence that it’s been 6-7 years since I’ve seen a Colorado custody decision I considered to be blatantly biased against a father. And in the one case which stands out, a good father was denied equal parenting over his 4 y.o. kids on fairly flimsy grounds (he lived 25 minutes away from the mother, and the judge deemed that “too far” for equal time).

That decision still bothers me to this day – sometimes you can do everything right, but the luck of the draw was that we ended up in front of a senior judge (i.e. retired, part-time judge who began practicing law about the same year I was born). I’ve never liked the phrase “the exception that proves the rule”, but this father being denied equal parenting fits that description exactly.

The fact that this result still stands out as a great injustice shows how far divorce law for men has truly come. A custody result which would have been common back in the 1990s is now so unusual that I’ll probably never forget the injustice of that outcome. Fathers have fought, and won, the equality battle. Father’s rights are the same as mother’s rights, and divorce law for men means that men receive the same treatment as women from our judges.

Father’s Rights Now Means Equal Rights For Colorado Fathers

These days, a men’s rights attorney means fighting for Colorado fathers to get the same treatment as the mother in a Colorado domestic relations courtroom. And that happens – if the dad is a good parent, he won’t be discriminated against because he’s male. But the reverse is also true – if the dad is a bad parent, the fact that he’s male won’t save him from an unfavorable child custody ruling.

“Divorce law for men” means equality as a parent, not preferential treatment. And a men’s rights attorney fights for equality, not preferences.

Since my first custody win for a father back in 2000, I’ve seen a bunch of cases where the father has been awarded primary custody over the children – not because he’s the father, and not despite being the father, but simply because he was the better parent under the circumstances. The fact that such results are common means Father’s Rights advocates in Colorado have won a victory that dads in the 1980s and 1990s could only dream about.

Divorce Law For Men Means Alimony & Property

Fathers are (often) husbands too. And while maintenance and the division of marital property is not directly connected to father’s custody rights, if a court decision leaves the husband destitute, being a good father is harder without financial resources. So making sure that husbands are not discriminated against with respect to financial issues is an important part of divorce law for men.

Since that milestone mentioned above where I won maintenance for a teacher husband from his physician wife, such results have become commonplace. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen courts award maintenance to a husband, just as they would to a wife under the same circumstances.

Whereas 20 years ago, there may have been a bit of snickering that no “self-respecting man” should need alimony from his wife, we are in more enlightened times now where one’s sex truly has nothing to do with a need for maintenance. While divorces among older couples may still involve spouses in more “traditional” roles, these days women and men are about as likely as one-another to be college-educated professionals with a career. As of 2017, the U.S. Department of Education reported that the percentage of American college students who were women was 56% and increasing.

In a recent case, I represented a professional woman who both out-earned her husband, and owned a business. The division of assets included a battle over what her business was worth (we prevailed!), but no one suggested for a moment that the husband was not entitled to his fair share, despite the assets being largely titled in her name. And likewise, the husband fought for alimony, based solely upon the significant disparity in incomes.

The outcome should delight fathers’ rights advocates, as well as women’s advocates alike – equal parenting time, and the higher income earner (the wife) paid maintenance to the lower income earner (the husband). The sex of the spouses was not a factor at all in the battle of maintenance – not even at the backs of anyone’s minds. The wife paying the husband property and alimony is a perfect example of divorce law for men truly working.

Separate Divorce Laws for Men in Colorado?

With one exception, Colorado family law is gender-neutral, and the spouses can expect the same consideration regardless of whether they are the father or mother.

That one exception is paternity law, and it’s not an exception in law – dads have as much right to custody as moms, but in proof. Absent a major problem at the hospital, there is never a doubt who a child’s mother is, but genetic testing may be required to establish a father’s paternity. And that also means that when a baby is born to an unwed mother, that mother has full parental rights from the outset. But unless both parents agree the man goes on the birth certificate, the father won’t have any parental rights until legal paternity has been adjudicated. So that means more opportunity to bond in the early months, though such advantage is eroded over time.

Note also that biology, not the law, may at times also give mothers an advantage over fathers in parenting cases. Before a child is born, the expectant mother is free to move to another state without restriction, and then the father would have to fight for his child custody rights in the state where she moved. Or an infant who is breast-feeding may not be able to spend too much time away from the nursing mother yet (although after a few months, courts would typically expect the mother to express milk).

Finally, a couple’s own decisions, not whether they are male or female, will often determine outcome. A “traditional” couple (not a very apt term these days) with a working father and stay-at-home mother has already defined parental roles, and it may give the mother at least an initial advantage in child custody issues with younger children, or if child relocation is at issue.

Lawyers for Dads in Colorado Springs

The father’s rights lawyers at Graham.Law have a history of fighting for the rights of Colorado dads. But we fight for all of our clients’ rights, and as often as not, our client is a father in need of skilled legal representation. Our cause is simply representing good parents of either sex. If you’re a good father, we’ll fight for your rights under Colorado law. And if you have room for improvement as a parent, we’ll advise you what you can do to maximize your chances of success in court. We fight for worthy fathers, and good dads should expect fair treatment, not special treatment.

If you’re a father wanting someone to fight for your rights under Colorado law, we would be honored if you would consider the men, and the women, of Graham.Law. We are not crusaders who will represent you just because you’re a dad, but we have the skills, brains, and experience to represent our clients who are worthy fathers. And mothers.

FAQ – Fathers Rights in Colorado

What are Colorado father rights lawyers?

An attorney who will zealously advocate for his clients who are men, and especially ensure they have equal treatment in child custody cases, is a father’s rights lawyer.

How can a father sign his rights away?

A father, or a mother, may sign their parental rights away in two different ways: in a custody case, by giving the other parent full custody, or as part of an adoption proceeding, where he relinquishes his rights to another person. Only an adoption will end the father’s obligation to pay child support.

Can a father get primary custody of the children?

Absolutely. At Graham.Law we have won primary parental responsibility for fathers many times when it’s in the best interest of the children to live with the father instead of the mother.

What are my rights as a father in Colorado?

Unless restricted by a court, both parents have the same rights – chief among them are the right to parenting time with the children, to share in decision-making, and to information about the children.

Do unmarried fathers have rights?

In Colorado, both parents are treated equally, and have equal rights, whether they are married or not. However, there is no specific parenting order, so if the parents disagree, it will take a court order to establish their rights. And see the next FAQ if the father is not on the birth certificate.

Does a father have rights if not on the birth certificate?

Here is the one area where fathers still have a disadvantage over mothers. A mother is always on the birth certificate, since her parentage is never in doubt. But unless both parents agree to put the father on the birth certificate, he will have to establish paternity before asserting parental rights.

What rights does a father have to a newborn baby?

If he’s on the birth certificate, a father has equal rights as the mother, except that practically speaking, it may be harder to enforce them if the mother is breast-feeding, for example. If he is not on the birth certificate, a father has no rights over a newborn until paternity is established. And being a biological father is just one of the competing paternity presumptions, albeit an important one.

What rights do military fathers have?

Thanks to the new Uniform Deployed Parents Custody & Visitation Act, military parents need not worry about losing custody because of a deployment, because any parenting changes will only be temporary. See our deployed parents article in the Military Divorce Guide.

Award-Winning Fathers’ Rights Law Firm in Colorado Springs

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U.S. News & World Report calls Graham.Law one of the Best Law Firms in America, and our managing partner is a Colorado Super Lawyer. Our family law attorneys have years of experience helping clients navigate the Colorado legal system. We know Colorado divorce & family law inside and out, from complex multi-million dollar property or child custody cases to basic child support modifications.

For more information about our top-rated El Paso County family law firm, contact us by filling out our contact form, calling us at (719) 630-1123 to set up a free consult, or click on:

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