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Unmarried fathers, child custody and visitation

Sometimes when a child in Colorado is born to unmarried parents who are no longer in a relationship with one another, it may be assumed that the child's mother will receive primary parental responsibilities, also known as child custody. However, unmarried fathers can also seek parental responsibilities or parenting time, also known as visitation. There are certain steps that must be completed in order to do so.

First, the father must establish paternity. One way to do this is to fill out and sign a form at the hospital where the child is born known as an "Acknowledgment of Paternity," and then file that form with the appropriate agency or court. Another way to establish paternity is through DNA testing. DNA can be collected from a cheek swab of the alleged father and child, to see if there is a match. If so, the court may issue a ruling that the man is the child's biological father.

After establishing paternity, the father can pursue parental responsibilities or parenting time. Establishing paternity does not automatically grant a father time with his child. Instead, the father must ask the court for his rights regarding his child, and the appropriate court procedures must be followed that will grant the father parental responsibilities or parenting time. Ultimately, decisions will be made that are in the best interests of the child.

Unmarried fathers still play a vital role in their child's life. Their child benefits from building a strong and loving relationship with the father, as well as having a stronger sense of identity, health history and financial support. Unmarried fathers who wish to seek child custody and visitation should take the steps necessary to make this happen, including seeking legal advice if appropriate.

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