In the United States and across the world, it has become increasingly common and socially acceptable for children to be born to unmarried parents. In the last 25 years, it has become so common for children to be born out of wedlock that it has raised a lot of questions about the rights of unwed fathers.
When a child is born to married parents, the law automatically assumes that the woman’s husband is the child’s biological and legal father. But when a child is born to unmarried parents, the child’s biological father has zero rights and responsibilities toward his child until paternity is established legally. This means a court cannot issue orders for child custody or child support until paternity is established.
Establishing Paternity in Colorado
Whether you are a mother seeking child support or a father seeking custody rights, the first step is to establish paternity. Generally, parents can voluntarily acknowledge paternity or they can do it through judicial paternity order. If the mother and father are 100% certain about the father, they can sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form at the hospital shortly after the child’s birth in front of a witness.
If there is any question about who the child’s biological father is, the mother and presumed father are discouraged from signing the AOP form. Instead, they should petition the court for a Judicial Paternity Order, which is a paternity action through the courts.
With a Judicial Paternity Order, each parent hires an attorney to represent them in court, and after the child is born, the father and child submit to genetic testing (a DNA test).
If the DNA results come back positive, paternity is established and orders can be made for child support and child custody. However, just because paternity is established, it does not guarantee that the father will get custody or visitation rights.
It is possible for visitation to be established by the court or through an informal agreement by the mother and father. In Colorado, a paternity action can be started at any time until the child turns 18, and sometimes it can be established until the child’s 21st birthday.
To learn more about establishing paternity in Colorado, contact Kaplan Law L.L.C.