Human beings have a fundamental need to know and understand who we are and where we come from. Knowing who our parents are is often necessary to understanding ourselves, regardless of whether we are like our parents or completely different.
So what happens when a child’s biological, or natural father is unknown? In Colorado, a child’s mother, or a man who believes he is a child’s father, or even the state can file a paternity action with the court to determine parentage and child’s legal father. Legal paternity in Colorado is governed by the Uniform Parentage Act which can be found in Article 4 of Title 19 of the Colorado Revised Statutes.
Determining a child’s natural father can be rewarding but it is also frequently stressful and difficult. The results can be a source of great joy and relief, or conversely lead to disappointment and regret.
Establishing paternity and legal parentage is a process that goes beyond merely taking a genetic test. The process is complicated and time consuming; and unrepresented persons often make mistakes that that stall the process, result in the case the case being dismissed by the court for a procedural error before paternity is ever established, or effectively waive the person’s right to challenge paternity altogether.
A paternity case in Colorado starts with the filing of a petition with the Colorado district court. Generally, every man who is a “presumptive father” as the term is legally defined, must be made parties to the case. In addition to the child’s biological father, a presumptive father can be someone who is legally obligated by court order to support the child, someone who marries the mother after the child was born, and/or someone who consented to being named as the child’s father on the birth certificate.
Importance of Determining the Biological Father
Most children have an innate desire to know the identity of their natural father, especially as they grow older. Not knowing their natural father is be a great source of stress for children and their parents alike.
Knowing the identify of a natural father is can benefit children and parents in the following ways:
- Medical history
- A natural father’s medical history can be used by doctors and other medical providers to help diagnose and treat his child’s medical conditions, and better manage the child’s overall health.
- Legal benefits
- Legal parents have constitutionally protected right to the care and companionship with their children and are also responsible for financial support their children (child support).
- Children as legal heirs may stand to inherit from their parents upon their death.
- Children may be entitled to social security benefits resulting from their parents’ disability.
- Social benefits
- A natural father can often help his child understand who they are as a person and grow into a capable, confident, and well-adjusted adult.
- Family bonding
- A child’s knowledge of his or her natural father can strengthen their relationship with the rest of their family, their peers and community.
When Can A Paternity Test Be Done
DNA testing for paternity reasons can be done as early as the first trimester of a woman’s pregnancy, however there are different types of scenarios that require the testing to be done either later in pregnancy or after the birth of the child. If you are seeking a paternity test while pregnant, it is best to consult your doctor on what the best and safest choice would be for both you and your child.
If a father has already signed an Acknowledgement of Paternity form, but believes that the child is not theirs, there is a 60-day window of time for the father to change his mind and seek a paternity test. If a man determines that he is not the child’s natural of father, he generally must retract his acknowledgement of paternity with 60 day, after which his acknowledgment becomes legal finding of paternity. A father wishing to contest a legal finding of paternity must bring the matter to court, and generally must do so within 2 years after the child is born.
Child Support and Custody
A genetic test alone does not guarantee that a child will receive child support from his or her natural father or who legal custody belongs to. Determining the biological father simply designates a legal father who has rights and responsibilities for the child. Generally, parents must make a separate request for child support or orders determining custody / allocating parental responsibilities between the parents. Which parent is ordered to pay child support and how much is dependent on several different factors.
Child support cases are handled in several different ways depending on the circumstances. If a couple with children gets divorced, child support is handled through the divorce case. If an unmarried couple gets a paternity test to resolve child support, child support can either be addressed through the paternity proceeding in juvenile court or in a separate allocation of parental responsibilities case in domestic court. There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of case, and parents are well advised to consult with an experienced family law attorney before attempting to bring a court action on their own.
The amount of child support a parent receives is generally determined by a specific, statutory formula which takes into account factors such as:
- The gross (before tax) monthly income of each parent
- The number of overnights annually each parent has with the child
- Whether either parent is legally responsible for other children
- Expenses for the child’s health insurance and daycare incurred by either parent
There are many details and factors that influence the outcome of paternity and child support cases, and what matters often varies depending on your individual circumstances. If you have specific questions about your family’s situation or a paternity case, seek professional guidance as soon as possible. Time is of the essence in most of these cases, and by waiting to address a paternity matter, you may accidentally give up your right to challenge paternity altogether.
Attorney Brian Boal of Boal Law Firm, PC has years of experience handling paternity and family law cases and a track record of helping his clients achieve their desired outcome. To set up a consult with Brian, please call us at 719-203-6339