Absent neglect or abuse, children in Colorado generally benefit from having a meaningful, supportive relationship with both of their parents, even if their parents are no longer in a relationship with one another. However, if unmarried parents have a child and later split up, paternity needs to be established before the father can pursue parenting time with the child or before the mother can seek child support. In Colorado, there are three ways paternity can be established.
One way to establish paternity is through a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity. This is a form that states that the parents both believe the man is the child's biological father and must be signed in front of a witness. This form can be signed at the hospital when the child is born, or it can be signed at the Office of Vital Records and Statistics after the child's birth.
Another way to establish paternity is through an administrative paternity order via child support enforcement. This order is not granted through the judicial system. Instead, a parent will apply through Child Support services. Both parents will then receive notice that proceedings on the issue will be held and they may be asked to provide more information or submit to a genetic test. Once proceedings are complete, an order will be granted that has the same effect as a judicial order.
Finally, paternity can be established through a judicial paternity order. This order is granted by a judge following legal proceedings. Both the child's mother and the purported father can be represented by a family law attorney. The parties will receive court documents and may need to supply the court with further information or submit to a genetic test. The court will then issue a decision regarding paternity.
The establishment of paternity benefits the child and parents in many ways. Mothers can seek child support from the child's father, and fathers can seek parenting time with the child. The child benefits from having the financial and emotional support of both parents. Children also benefit from knowing their medical history, family lineage, inheritance rights and more. In the end, establishing paternity can benefit all parties to the action in a substantial way.