Colorado Child Custody Laws: Unwed Parents
Under Colorado law, when a child is born to an unmarried couple, the father isn't automatically granted any rights. The birth does not confer a legal parent-child relationship. This is true even if the mother and father are living together or otherwise in a long-term exclusive relationship.
This might strike you as surprising and unfair, and that's understandable. But, there are ways for unmarried fathers to legally establish paternity. Legal paternity gives fathers the standing they need to seek parenting time and the ability to make important decisions about the child's upbringing.
How can I establish paternity?
The easiest way to establish legal paternity is for the mother and father to complete the Acknowledgement of Paternity form at the hospital when the child is born. If the parents did not complete the form at the hospital, they can complete it at their local Office of Vital Records and Statistics.
The process becomes more complicated if the father wants to acknowledge paternity but the mother does not agree, or if it is unclear who the child's biological father is. In these cases, the father may have to go to court to establish paternity. It is best to work with an experienced family law attorney in these situations.
When can I seek paternity?
Paternity can be sought any time before the child turns 18. In some cases that age limit is extended to 21. Fathers can seek paternity even if they don't live in the same state as their child.
Does paternity give me visitation?
Child custody and parenting time are separate decisions from paternity. Establishing paternity makes you the child's father in the eyes of the law. This gives you the legal standing to pursue more involvement in your child's life. Paternity is an important prerequisite to these types of cases.
Will I automatically have to pay child support?
No. Like custody, child support is a separate decision. While establishing paternity opens the door, the court will determine all of the circumstances at play before requiring a father to pay child support.
What is my first step?
If you're curious about your rights as a father, or about establishing paternity of your child, contact the Law Office of Alexandra White, PC. We'll work with you to help you understand your options and do what is right for your family. Give us a call at (303) 647-4245 to schedule a free consultation.