For married couples, divorce is a challenging enough process as it is. There are heaps of paperwork, plenty of lawyers, and lots of legalese that is difficult to understand at first glance. When you have children in a marriage, the procedural aspects of your divorce get even more complicated.
More commonly, however, couples are choosing not to get married at all. In fact, 25% of the U.S.’s young adults between the ages of 25 and 34 may never get married at all. While married couples tend to benefit economically, marriage is falling out of favor for various specific reasons, including financial security, plenty of young adults are stating that it’s just a matter of preference.
Regardless of the various reasons and statistics available explaining why couples do not get married, the fact of the matter is that we are seeing more unmarried couples in the U.S. now than ever before. Specifically, we are seeing unmarried couples with children. In 2014, the number of unmarried cohabiting couples with children under 18 years old totaled a whopping 3.1 million.
Unfortunately, married couples are not the only couples who choose to separate. Unwed couples do not go through the legal divorce process that married couples do when it comes to separation, but some parts of the process are similar. Specifically, there may be issues that arise regarding the father’s responsibility to provide child support or to have custody. When a couple with a child is unwed, however, paternity must be established before these matters are handled.
Establishing Paternity- Why?
Establishing paternity – the identification of the father to the child – ensures that the identification of the child’s father is known and certain. This established paternity is in place to make certain that when it comes to legal issues surrounding the children such as inheritance, child support, custody, and other areas of law, the rights and duties of the identified parents are known and clear.
Not only does establishing paternity make the procedure easier for both the couple and the state, but it also gives legal responsibility for the child to the father. It guarantees that the father will receive bonding time and decision-making rights in their child’s life when it comes to upbringing, health, education, and more. Additionally, if the father is legally acknowledged to be the child’s parent, the child will be entitled to many more rights in various situations than without that legally established paternity.
When Can I Establish Paternity?
You do not need to be going through a separation in order to establish paternity in Colorado. Establishing paternity can be initiated any time before the child turns 18 years old and, in some cases, can be extended to any time before the child is 21 years old.
Establishing Paternity in Colorado: Voluntary
The first and most simple way to establish paternity is through a voluntarily acknowledgement. In a case of a voluntary establishment of paternity, both of the child’s parents agree on the identification of the father. The parties both sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form and the father’s name is added to the child’s birth certificate.
The signature on the Acknowledgement of Paternity form means that there will be a legal finding of paternity 60 days after the date of signing. If, within 60 days, the father changes his mind, he may contact an experienced attorney or the court and may be able to rescind the Acknowledgement.
Establishing Paternity in Colorado: Court Action
The second way of establishing paternity is through filing a legal action to obtain a court order to determine paternity. This is more difficult than the voluntary acknowledgement of paternity and should only happen if the parents disagree on the identification of the child’s father. In this situation, the disagreeing couple will present their cases to the judge or magistrate that is overseeing the case and there will be a ruling. DNA tests, dismissal, or a judicial order establishing paternity may be ordered depending on your situation.
Will Establishing Paternity Guarantee Child Support or Custody?
No. When paternity is established, you are simply making the child’s father a legal guardian. While this acknowledgement offers the child various entitlements that will likely be important to the child, this document alone does not guarantee that the child will receive child support or that the father will receive any sort of custody. In the case of a separation, unwed parents of the child will likely have to make custody arrangements and child support arrangements in an informal setting or may be able to make those arrangements with the aid of the court.
Whether you are unwed or married, all parents want the best for their children. If you are an unmarried parent interested in establishing paternity in Colorado, contact our family law specialists today to learn more about what our experienced attorneys can do to help.
Photo by Becca Tarter on Unsplash