Either parent may file a petition to establish a father's paternity under the Uniform Parentage Act, which has been adopted in Colorado. To do so, a Colorado family law court must make a finding that the alleged father is really the child's father. If the court fins paternity, the court may issue orders relating to parenting, child support and other financial and parenting responsibilities. Paternity in Colorado can be complicated and in such cases, it is best to obtain the assistance of a seasoned Colorado family law attorney who understands the law in this area.
Determination of paternity depends upon a number of factors, including genetic testing, the name on the child's birth certificate, who the mother was married to at the time the child was born, and the age of the child.
Parties to a paternity case can voluntarily sign a joint Acknowledgement of Paternity which legally establishes the father's paternity and is legally binding after 60 days has passed. Even if an Acknowledgement of Paternity is executed, parties may find they disagree on the amount of child support, and child custody issues (parenting time, decision making, establishing a primary residence of the child). In such cases, a court hearing may be needed to make a determination if the parties are unable to agree.
An Acknowledgement of Paternity should not be entered into lightly as it may be difficult or impossible to challenge paternity. Counsel with a Colorado family law attorney can be a valuable means of avoiding costly mistakes in this area. In Colorado, ignorance of the law is generally not an excuse.
In Colorado, courts generally order the parties attend mediation with a neutral, third party mediator who helps the parties to try to reach an agreement. (The mediator does not have power to force a settlement or agreement). Meeting with a Colorado family law attorney who is also a mediator, can be a helpful and cost-effective means of settling such disputes.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS REGARDING PATERNITY
Question: I'm married but I just had a baby. My husband is not the baby's father. What can I do to get the real father's name on the baby's birth certificate?
Answer: You, your husband and the baby's natural father can complete the Acknowledgement of Paternity form stating that the husband is not the baby's father and the natural father is the baby's father. The form then needs to be sent to Vital Records (the address is on the back of the form), who will then add the baby's father's name to the birth certificate. If your husband or the baby's natural father will not sign the Acknowledgment of Paternity, you will need to file a legal action to obtain a court order to determine paternity of the baby. You can do this through the county Child Support Enforcement Unit or through a private attorney.
Question: I signed an Acknowledgment of Paternity form, but now I'm not sure I'm the baby's father. What can I do?
Answer: An Acknowledgment of Paternity becomes a "Legal Finding of Paternity" 60 days after it is signed. If it has been less than 60 days since you signed the form, you can contact a Colorado attorney, the court, or the county Child Support Enforcement (CSE) Unit to withdraw your signature on the Acknowledgment of Paternity form. A legal action will be filed to determine if you are the baby's father. If it has been more than 60 days since you signed the form, you may still contact the court, a Colorado attorney, or the county CSE Unit. However, the court may not allow the legal finding of paternity to be overturned.
Question: Should I sign the Acknowledgement of Paternity form even if I live with the mother if I want to assure my parental rights?
Answer: You may believe there is no need to establish paternity now when you live with the mother and child. The mother's feelings may change over time, especially if you develop relationship problems. For this reason, it is important to legally establish paternity if you wish to retain child custody rights. Having your name on your child's birth certificate can be is important for many reasons, as discussed below.
Question: I am living with the father. Will establishing paternity mean I have to receive support?
Answer: Establishing your baby's paternity in Colorado is separate from child support. Establishing paternity gives a child a legal father and gives the child important rights. By itself, it does not establish a child support order. Establishing your baby's paternity now will make it easier for you if you decide in the future that you need child support.
Question: I am not married and just had a baby. The baby's father has died. Can the deceased father's name be added to the child's birth certificate at the hospital?
Answer: No. If the unmarried father is not available at the hospital when the child is born and he has not completed the voluntary acknowledgment of paternity form, the father's name cannot be added to the birth certificate.
Question: Does the Acknowledgment of Paternity form give the mother or the father custody (parental responsibility) or visitation rights?
Answer: No. Custody issues (parental responsibilities) are determined by the court. Visitation terms can be arranged informally between the mother and the father or set by the court
Question: How is paternity established?
Answer: The court can legally establish paternity. A judge or other judicial officer may enter an order, which establishes paternity. The county Child Support Enforcement Unit may also establish paternity without going to court. The unmarried parents can also sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity form at the hospital when the child is born without going to court.
Question: How long after the child is born can paternity be established?
Answer: Colorado law allows a paternity action to be started anytime before the child reaches the age of 18 and in some circumstances up to age 21.
Question: If the parents name the child after the father, does this establish paternity or give the father any rights?
Answer: No. Naming the child after the father does not establish paternity or give the father any rights.
Question: What are the benefits of establishing paternity?
Answer: Establishing paternity for a child can benefit the child, the mother and the father.
The benefits are:
- The child - sense of belonging, sense of continuity, self-esteem, emotional support, medical history, health insurance/medical benefits, death or disability benefits, financial support, inheritance rights.
- The Mom - shared responsibility, child rearing, emotional and financial assistance.
- The Dad - shared responsibility, knowledge of child, bonding with child, emotional and psychological benefits of being involved with child, the rewards of contributing, and sharing the love and affection of a child