Are you legally the father?

Are you legally the father?

In the eyes of the Court, biological paternity and legal paternity are two separate distinctions. And unfortunately for unmarried fathers, being the child’s biological father does not automatically establish legal paternity. While each state’s laws are different, many states do not automatically assign legal paternity to an unwed father.

Why is legal paternity important? Without it, unwed fathers may be without legal standing to request custody and visitation. That means if the child’s mother refuses to let the father see the child or decides to move away, a father without legal paternity may have no grounds to contest that decision. Additionally, after establishing legal paternity, the father can have a say in important decisions the child’s life.

Establishing legal paternity also benefits the child. Children with a legally established father gain certain rights and privileges, including inheritance and rights to the father’s insurance, social security, and veteran’s benefits. Without a legal connection between the father and child, both parties are left without legal recourse despite the strong social and emotional connection the two may have.

In Colorado, there are three ways for unwed fathers to establish paternity:

  1. Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity
  2. Administrative Paternity Order
  3. Judicial Paternity Order

Like in many states, simply having the father’s name on the birth certificate is not enough in Colorado. Also, while all three options will establish legal paternity, only certain ones can also determine issues like child support and child custody.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that establishing legal paternity does not automatically give rise to a responsibility of paying child support. The two actions are separate. Legal paternity, however, must be established before a determination of child support can be made.

If you are interested in establishing legal paternity in Colorado, schedule your free consultation today to find out your options.


This website includes information about legal issues and legal developments. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You should contact an attorney for advice on specific legal problems.

Lauren Lester is an affordable family law, estate planning, and probate lawyer licensed in Colorado.