Colorado Custody Laws For Unmarried Parents

October 19, 2021


In Colorado, child custody between unmarried parents is handled similarly to how custody is handled between married parents. Many unwed couples share children - almost as many as married couples with children. When parents are unmarried, issues such as childcare and custody become even more complicated because the law in this area is not always easy to understand. Those curious about Colorado custody laws for unmarried parents should consider contacting Johnson Law Group at 720-445-4444

Paternity Must Be Established in Custody Issues

Colorado Custody Laws

For a father to have rights and be involved in his children's lives, paternity must be established legally. It is not enough to say you are the father. The process of establishing parental rights is less complicated if the birth certificate is signed by the father. If this is not the case, you may establish paternity in one of two ways:

  • Acknowledgment: Both parents can sign a form called "Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity" if they agree the father is the parent. This form basically establishes the father as the legal father of the child. Then, his name is added to the child's birth certificate.
  • Paternity Test: When parents disagree on paternity, it must be established through a paternity test ordered by the court. In most cases, a judge requires this test of the alleged father before deciding on any rights or responsibilities regarding the child.

Why Establishing Paternity is Important

Establishing paternity is essential not only for the child's father but also for the mother. Unmarried parents may not be eligible for certain benefits if paternity is not established. A biological father may want parenting time or to gain custody of his child. The mother cannot collect child support if paternity is not established.

  • Child support and benefits: A biological father is not required to pay child support if paternity is not established in the state of Colorado. On the other hand, when a father who has established paternity is not given primary custody of his child, he must pay child support as required by law. The child support program in Colorado operates at the county level, according to the Colorado Judicial Branch (page 2). Child support and other benefits protect the children first and foremost and support their well-being. For example, a father may have insurance or health care benefits through his employer. Without proving paternity, any children may not be eligible for these significant benefits.
  • Child custody and parenting time: A father cannot seek custody or visitation rights without establishing paternity. When unmarried parents decide to go their separate ways, a father may want to continue being part of his child's life. In some situations involving unmarried parents with children, a child's guardian (usually the mother) attempts to keep the child away from the father. By establishing paternity, a father has legal rights such as parenting time and may seek custody if the child's mother becomes disabled or passes away.

Paternity Action Cases

While the alleged father of the child can submit a paternity action to the court, others may do so under Colorado law. These include:

  • The mother of the child
  • A child older than 18 years of age
  • A child younger than 18, with the assistance of a personal representative
  • The legal representative of any person (minor, deceased, or incarcerated) who is allowed to bring a paternity action
  • Social services county department
  • The Colorado Department of Human Services

Children who request a paternity action may do so at any time until they reach the age of 21, according to the Colorado Judicial Branch. If you have questions concerning paternity action, our family law attorneys at Johnson Law Group can help. 

Mother's Rights in Colorado

Whether married or not, mothers have certain rights that protect the well-being and interests of minor children. For parents who are not married, a mother has the same rights as one who goes through divorce. Some of these include:

  • Custody: In general, the mother of a child usually gains custody, but this is not always the case. Custody is awarded to the parent deemed most capable of raising the child. Decisions are always made according to what is in the best interest of the child or children.
  • Visitation: Mothers who are not awarded custody are entitled to parenting time in most cases. This is important to the health and development of the child.
  • Child support: A mother has the right to collect child support from the father of the child once paternity is established. Child support provides financial assistance so mothers and their children can sustain life.

Consider Scheduling a Consultation with the Johnson Law Group

Parents want their children to feel loved and supported, regardless of marriage status. When a couple cannot resolve their differences and decide to go their separate ways, it affects everyone in the family – including children. Colorado custody laws for unmarried parents do not differ from those in circumstances where parents divorce.

The bottom line is that the laws are designed to protect the well-being and interest of the children, no matter the circumstances surrounding their parents. Child custody, visitation, and other issues can be challenging to sort out when parents are at odds, emotional, and concerned about their children. At Johnson Law Group, we provide legal support and guidance to those going through trying times. Contact us today at 720-445-4444 to schedule a FREE consultation

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Written by Family Law Attorney Myles S. Johnson
Divorce doesn’t have to be dramatic. For the litigants, losing your spouse is significant enough. But you can choose the way it affects your daily life. The only guarantee I can give is that the feeling that you have right now will not be the feeling you end with. This is a season in your life, and it must be approached that way.
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