Allocation of Parental Responsibility/Paternity
Unmarried couples who have children together but live apart should negotiate legal arrangements for child support, allocation of parental responsibilities and parenting time. In certain cases paternity may be in dispute and can typically be resolved by genetic testing of the potential father and the child. Establishing paternity is important when determining the allocation of parental responsibility, or child custody. It also allows the mother to formally request child support from the father, and also provides the father with a number of rights, including the right to be a parent to his child, regardless of whether the mother wants him to do so.
How to Establish Paternity in Colorado
Paternity can be established “voluntarily” or “involuntarily.” Voluntary establishment is straightforward: If both parents agree who the child’s father is, they may sign a “Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity” form. Once this document has been signed by both parents, the man's status as the child’s father will be legally recognized, and his name can be added to the child’s birth certificate.
A voluntary acknowledgment of paternity can be revoked within 60 days of signing the form. Otherwise, the parent who wishes to rescind the acknowledgment will need to take further legal action.
If the parents cannot agree on the identity of the child’s father, a qualifying party will likely need to initiate involuntary establishment proceedings, which involve the courts. Only certain people and agencies can file this court action.
In Colorado, the following parties can start the involuntary paternity establishment process:
- The child’s mother
- The child (if he or she is at least 21 years old)
- The child’s personal representative (if the child is less than 18 years old)
- A man who believes he is the child’s father
- A man who has been identified as the child’s father
- A county department of social services
- The Colorado Department of Human Services
- Any legal representative of someone who would ordinarily have the right to initiate these proceedings but cannot do so due to their being a minor, incapacitated, or deceased
An involuntary paternity case can be filed at any point before the child turns 18. The child may also bring a case after they turn 21.
In involuntary paternity establishment proceedings, the judge will review the available evidence and determine whether the identified father will be legally recognized as the child’s father. The judge may overrule the identified father’s objections and issue a paternity order. They may also issue orders involving child support, allocation of parental responsibilities, and parenting time.
Why You Should Establish Paternity in Colorado
Whether you are the mother, father, or child, establishing paternity is an important legal procedure.
As a mother, establishing paternity is important if you wish to obtain child support from the father. If the father has health insurance, establishing paternity may also allow his child to access benefits as the father’s dependent.
As a father, establishing paternity can help you obtain the rights afforded to parents in Colorado. An unmarried man will not have a legal right to participate in his child’s life until a formal determination of the father-child relationship has been made.
As a child, establishing paternity can facilitate access to key benefits, even if you are an adult. If your father qualifies for veteran’s benefits and/or disability benefits, his dependent child may be eligible for these benefits, as well. A child also stands to inherit assets if their father passes away without a valid will.