Establishing Paternity: What You Need to Know

The birth of a child typically happens after nine months of stress and labor by the mother, so it’s very easy for the legal system to establish maternity. Establishing paternity, however, can be a far more complicated process depending on how present and willing the father is. Whether the parents are married or not, legally establishing a second person with an obligation to support the child is important to decreasing the number of mothers who end up on welfare.

Uniform Parentage Act

Under the Uniform Parentage Act, the man will be presumed to be the father under any of the following set of circumstances:

  • The man is married to the mother either at the time of the birth, or within 300 days of the child being born
  • The man and the mother attempted to get married before the birth of the child, but were unable to due to a variety of reasons, and the child was born during or within 300 days of the end of the marriage.
  • The man and mother marry after the child’s birth, and he has signed a paternity statement, was named on the child’s birth certificate, or pays child support under a voluntary promise through a court order.
  • If the child is still a minor and the man, while not married to the mother, houses the child in his home and openly claims the child is his natural child.

Voluntary Declarations

Obviously, the easiest way to establish paternity is for the father to voluntarily sign legal documents. There are several ways that this can be done, the easiest of which is for the father to be present during the birth. Even if the parents are unwed, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requires that all states need to offer the opportunity to establish paternity by voluntarily signing an acknowledgement of paternity. This can be done at the hospital, but if for whatever reason that is not possible, can also be done at a later date.

In order for the father’s name to be added to the birth certificate, he must complete these legal forms. If the father isn’t present during the birth, the mother cannot add his name until this paperwork is completed, so his name can only be added at a later date. If the father chooses not to sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity at the hospital, he must prepare and sign a paternity statement. Each state has their own forms, but Colorado’s can be found on their Judicial Branch website.

Involuntary Declarations

Unfortunately, not all fathers want to claim responsibility for the life they helped create. These disputes often come up when the father doesn’t want to be responsible for paying child support. If he doesn’t voluntarily sign a paternity statement, the case will often go to court in order to establish who the father is. In order to begin this process, you will need to contact your county’s Department of Social Services office. They will most likely need to serve the presumed father legal papers naming him as the father, and he will have the right to obtain DNA testing. If the test shows that he is the father, the court may sign an order declaring him the father, but if he continues to fight the results, the case will end up in court.

Establishing paternity can become a complicated battle if the father refuses to accept responsibility for the child. In these cases, it’s important to have legal guidance on your side in order to get the support you need. At The Harris Law Firm, we devote our entire practice to family law so our attorneys can best prepare for any legal hurdles that may arise. If you have a legal question, let us answer it through our online contact form at no cost to you, or you can set up a meeting with one of our attorneys by calling us at (303) 622-5502.

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