Why paternity matters for unmarried Colorado parents and their children

Paternity is the legal relationship between a father and child. It is not the same is biological or genetic fatherhood, although these issues are often related. When a child is born to married parents in Colorado, paternity is usually established automatically. However, when the parents are not married, additional legal measures are necessary in order to establish paternity.

In Colorado, a paternity case can be initiated at any time before the child reaches the age of 18. However, there are a number of compelling reasons to establish paternity as soon as possible.

Benefits and child support

Establishing paternity of a child born to unmarried parents helps protect the child's wellbeing by ensuring that he or she will have access to the same rights, benefits and legal protections as children of married parents. For example, unless paternity has been established, a child born to unmarried parents in Colorado may be ineligible to receive health care or other employer-provided benefits through his or her father. In addition, establishing paternity will permit the child to receive Social Security or military survivor's benefits if the father should die or become disabled.

Another important aspect of establishing paternity in Colorado is that it protects the child's right to receive financial support from both parents. Unless paternity has been established, a father cannot be required to pay child support in Colorado. Once paternity has been established, however, Colorado law requires that a father must pay child support if he does not have custody of his child.

Child custody and visitation

Along with securing benefits and financial support for the child, establishing paternity also protects a father's right to spend time with his child and be involved in the child's life.

Establishing paternity gives a father the right to seek custody or parenting-time rights (also known as visitation rights) if the parents break up or no longer get along. This can be especially important in the event that the child's mother or other guardian refuses to cooperate with the father's efforts to see his child. Establishing paternity will also help protect a father's right to seek custody in the event that the mother dies or becomes disabled.

In Colorado, either parent may file a paternity action to establish paternity of a child. Many unmarried parents choose to establish paternity immediately upon the birth of a child in order to provide security for the child and prevent potential conflicts in the future.

Contact an attorney

While establishing paternity can provide important benefits to both children and parents, it is a serious decision that can have life-long consequences. Therefore, when considering establishing paternity in Colorado, it is often wise for parents to speak with an experienced paternity lawyer about any questions or concerns they may have before moving forward with the process.