When a married man and woman have a baby, the law automatically assumes the woman’s husband is the child’s biological and legal father. As the child’s legal father, the husband has the legal duty to financially support his child whether he’s married to the mother or not. But what about unmarried couples? Do unwed fathers have to pay child support?
Believe it or not, we get the above question a lot. In fact, it’s not uncommon for unwed mothers and fathers to assume unmarried fathers have to pay child support. After all, they can probably list 5 or 10 friends, family, and co-workers who are single, never-married fathers who pay child support. Is that how it works? The mother says a man is a father and automatically the family courts will issue a child support order? Nope, that’s not how it works.
No Paternity, No Child Support
Let’s say an unmarried couple has a child together. The couple breaks up and the father starts giving the mother cash every week to help support his child. While this is voluntary, it’s not legally required unless paternity has been established. If the father wants to stop paying child support, he can, but if the mother wants a child support order to be issued, she’ll have to take her ex to court and ask that a DNA test be performed if paternity has not been established.
Generally, paternity in Colorado is established one of two ways: First, it can be established by the mother and father voluntarily signing an Acknowledgement of Paternity (AOP) form at the hospital after the baby’s birth. Second, it can be established by a Judicial Paternity Order, which refers to a court-ordered paternity test.
If there is any doubt about paternity, the AOP form should NOT be signed. Instead, the parties should each hire their own attorney and one of them should petition the court for a Judicial Paternity Order. If the DNA test affirms the father-child genetic relationship, then the family court can issue orders for child support and child custody.
Do you have legal questions about filing a paternity action? Contact our firm at (303) 747-4748 today to get started.