As culture’s morals and value continue to shift, we have seen and will continue to see more parents who have never been married to one another. While laws have been established to protect the rights of parents, there can be some ambiguity that occurs since many factors may not be clear in situations where the parents have never been married. Common issues include paternity, custody, and care. It is important to understand how to navigate issues impacting co-parents who have never shared the same last name.
The Issue of Paternity
In situations excluding a prior marriage, it is necessary for a potential father to legally prove paternity to the child in question. This is of importance as it protects his right to be present in his child’s life. He will not be able to petition Colorado courts regarding custody and visitation without first proving he is the child’s father. In cases where the father signed the birth certificate, this will be a much simpler process.
In cases, where the father due to his own will or the mother’s is not listed on the birth certificate other action will need to be taken. In amicable situations both parents may state that they are in agreement of the father’s paternity. In such cases a simple Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form can be signed, functioning as proof of paternity. After the form has been completed the father’s name can be added to the birth certificate.
In situations where this question cannot be mitigated peacefully the court system may become involved. In instances where parents disagree, a judge will rule in favor of legally requiring the potential father to take a paternity test. If the test proves paternity, the judge will then use this information to decide the rights the father has.
Issues of Custody
Once the question of paternity has been dealt with, issues involving custody can be handled in much the same way as those who are divorcing and have children. The Colorado courts will rule in favor of the best situation for the child with potential outcomes including full custody to one parent, joint custody, visitation, and child support.
Issues of Parental Responsibility
Such issues are defined as decisions regarding physical and legal custody of a child. Before paternity has been proven, fathers who have not been married to the mother do not have paternal rights. In some cases, the court system will define what constitutes parent responsibilities, particularly when the parents have never lived together or are separating from a prior situation of cohabitation.
Issues of Child Support
Colorado child support treats both parents equally when considering who should receive and who should pay the other parent. In cases where a father does not wish to pay child support, paternity must first be proven before he can be legally required to make payments to the mother.