The definition of paternity is the “state of being a father.” There are two ways to establish paternity.
- Voluntary: Both parents agree who the father is. The father’s name is added to the birth certificate once he signs a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity” form.
- Court Action: When there’s a disagreement about who the father is, the court will get involved to establish the identity.
The goal of a paternity case in Denver, CO, is to achieve one of the following three outcomes:
- A man who wishes to legally establish himself as the father to obtain custody or visitation rights
- A man who wants to challenge a claim that he is the child’s father
- A mother pursuing child support from the father of her child
Once paternity is established, the judge can issue orders for a variety of payments and benefits, including:
- Child support
- The child’s health insurance
- Child custody, both legal and physical
- Visitation rights
- Payments for court costs and genetic testing fees
In addition to the financial and logistical outcomes, establishing paternity can provide certainty and security for the mother and the child. Knowing without a doubt the identity of the father can result in the father being a more active part of the child’s life. The father can have an equal say in determining outcomes for the child in areas like health care, education, and religion.
Further, as a dependent, the child can receive veteran or disability benefits if the father served in the military.
Who Can Start Court Proceedings to Establish Paternity?
There are limitations to who can bring a court action to establish paternity. Here’s a list of the qualified individuals and organizations:
- The child (he or she will need a personal representative if they are under the age of 18)
- The child’s mother
- The putative father, which is the man who either believes he is the father or has been identified as the dad
- The department of social services
- A legal representative for any of the above if the person is a minor, is incapacitated, or is deceased
Cases of Mistaken Paternity
If a man has been misidentified as the father of a child, then the situation falls under Mistaken Paternity. This can happen when the man signed an acknowledgment form identifying him as the father or a court order determined he was the father. In either case, the man, who is not the biological father, was unaware at the time that he was not the dad.
In cases like these, the man can challenge the paternity status with a lawsuit.
Statute of Limitations
While paternity can be established voluntarily at any time, if you’d like a court order, then there is a time limit. In Colorado, the action must be brought to court either before the child’s 18th or 21st birthday. The age variance depends on whether the statute of limitations was in effect when the child was born.
If you’d like to discuss how to establish or challenge paternity, please contact the Law Offices of Brian S. Popp for a consultation.