FAQ: Men’s Rights During a Colorado Divorce
For many years, family law was not particularly friendly to men. Courts often relied on antiquated gender roles to make decisions about alimony, child support, and custody. This usually meant an unfair outcome for a divorcing husband or father. Theoretically, Colorado law now puts men and women on equal footing in divorce proceedings, but this is not always true in practice. Here are some frequently asked questions regarding men’s rights during divorce and how an attorney can help protect those rights.
Colorado courts rely on the presumption that both parents are entitled to reasonable parenting time unless the child’s physical health or emotional development would suffer as a result. Reasonable does not necessarily mean equal, however.
Men, like women, have a right to raise their children how they see fit. However, while the parents’ wishes factor into the court’s decision, they do not trump the child’s best interests. As a father, you must show the court how you will foster a stable, healthy environment for your child’s development — just like their mother.
However, “a court may find, based on all of the facts, that it is in the child’s best interests to place the child with his or her mother a majority of the time. This result is in no way a violation of C.R.S. § 14-10-124(3). The specific factors relevant to the particular child, and not gender alone, shape best interests determinations.” The Practitioner’s Guide to Colorado Domestic Relations Law § 4.3 (2014)
Not necessarily. Child support is typically paid to the parent who has primary physical care of the child. If you are not granted primary physical care of your child, you likely will have to pay child support.
Other factors, such as each parent’s income, the number of overnights each parent has with the child, and who pays health insurance, help determine how much, if any, child support is paid.
Generally, the more involved you are in your child’s life, the lower your monthly child support obligation is. Please note that this cannot be a primary motivator in your decision to ask the court for more parenting time.
In years past, our culture expected men to be the primary breadwinners of the family. Therefore, men were typically expected to pay spousal support, also known as spousal maintenance and alimony.
This changed in 1979 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that alimony was gender neutral and should be awarded accordingly. Still, the New York Times reported in October 2021 that far more women than men seek and receive spousal support.
Furthermore, the Times reported, men who do seek spousal support are often harshly scrutinized by judges. If you are awarded spousal support, it may be for a shorter amount of time, as some judges expect men to return to the job market faster than women. This is not always the case, and family law courts should always strive to treat divorcing spouses fairly regardless of gender.
The length and duration of your spousal support payments — if ordered — depends on how long you were married. Colorado law provides specific guidelines for a maintenance award if you and your spouse were married for three to 20 years, as long as your combined annual adjusted gross income does not exceed $240,000. C.R.S. § 14-10-114(3)(b)
If you were married for more than 20 years, the court may award maintenance for either a set amount of time or indefinitely. C.R.S. § 14-10-114(3)(b)(II)(A)
For marriages lasting less than three years, the court may award maintenance if “given the circumstances of the parties, the distribution of marital property is insufficient to achieve an equitable result.” C.R.S. § 14-10-114(3)(h)
Again, nothing is “automatic” in family law. Colorado is a “dual party” equitable division state. Equitable does not mean “50/50” — it means “fair.” What the courts deem equitable depends largely on the specifics of your divorce case.
Colorado’s adoption of the Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act (C.R.S. § 14-10-113) considers all property acquired during the marriage — with a few exceptions, such as gifts and inheritances — to be marital property. Family law courts must equitably divide all marital property between the husband and wife.
Neither parent is more likely to get custody of a child based on their gender. In Colorado, family court judges begin each custody case under the presumption that both parents are fit and able to provide for the minor child until there is evidence to prove otherwise.
Now, if the child is younger than six months old, the court may lean toward giving the mother more parenting time to accommodate breastfeeding. After the child turns six months old, though, judges often equal out parenting time.