Establishing paternity is an important step for unwed couples, and may be done voluntarily or by administrative or judicial order.
More and more couples in Colorado, and elsewhere, are having children out of wedlock. While this is generally indicative of the changing traditional family landscape in the country, it also creates some parent's rights issues. When couples have children outside of marriage, there is no legal presumption regarding the identity of the child's father. Thus, unwed men must establish paternity in order to enact their parental rights.
In the state of Colorado, there are three ways to establish paternity - a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity, an administrative paternity order or a judicial paternity order. Generally, according to the Colorado Department of Human Services, actions to establish paternity may be initiated any time before a child turns 18-years-old. In some cases, parents may have until a child is 21-years-old to begin such actions.
The benefits of establishing paternity
Legally establishing the identity of a child's father offers benefits to the child, the mother and the father. The DHS points out that this action may give kids a sense of belonging and emotional support. Additionally, it entitles them to medical, death and disability benefits, and grants them inheritance rights. Establishing paternity allows women to share their parental responsibilities and offers them emotional help.
Once paternity is established, fathers receive the benefit of knowing and bonding with their children. Furthermore, this legal action affords them the right to be involved in raising their children. This includes being a part of making important decisions regarding their kids' upbringing, health and education, among other issues. It also grants men the right to seek parenting time with their children.
Voluntary acknowledgment of paternity
Jefferson County's website specifies that an acknowledgment of paternity, or AOP, is a form that unwed parents may sign. This form must be signed by both parents of their own volition and states that a man is a child's biological father. Unwed parents may sign voluntary AOP forms in front of a witness at a hospital or birth facility after their child is born, or later at the Office of Vital Records and Statistics. Once signed and filed, an AOP establishes a man as the legal father of his child and adds his name to the birth certificate.
Administrative paternity order
An administrative paternity order is an order establishing a man as a child's legal father that does not involve the justice system. Such orders may be issued after one parent or the other applies for child support services through the state. Both parents receive a notice of the proceedings and have an opportunity to respond. During the proceedings, they may provide additional information or request DNA testing. Once the issues have been resolved, an administrative order may be issued.
Judicial paternity order
According the Jefferson County website, judicial paternity orders are the result of a court action. During a hearing, the parents will provide more information to the judge or magistrate that is overseeing the case. Based on the information presented, the judge or magistrate will make a ruling, and potentially issue a judicial order establishing paternity.
Working with an attorney
While establishing paternity may give Colorado mothers, fathers and children peace of mind, it can be a complicated process in some cases. This is especially true when both parents are not willing to voluntarily acknowledge paternity. Therefore, unwed parents who have not taken this important legal step may consider seeking legal guidance. An attorney may explain their options and help guide them through the process.