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When Is An Unmarried Man Presumed to Be A Child’s Father?

Daniel Noffsinger - Thursday, May 07, 2015

Each year children across the United States are born to unmarried women. According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the birth rate for unmarried women in 2011 was 46 births per 1,000 unmarried women. This resulted in a little more than 1.6 million children born to women outside of marriage. When a child is born to a married couple, the legal rights with respect to the child are well defined. The situation, however, is not as clear when a child is born to unmarried parents.

Fathers of children born to unmarried mothers are often referred to as “alleged, presumed, reputed, or putative fathers.” Over the past few decades, fathers of children born to unmarried women have sought to protect their parental rights in the courts. And courts have found that unmarried fathers have a constitutional right “to establish a substantial relationship, which it defined as the father’s commitment to the responsibilities of parenthood.” Nevertheless, states differ in how they define a father and how they determine what legal rights a father has.

Establishing Parental Rights of Unmarried Fathers in Colorado

The first step to determine what legal rights an unmarried father has in a child is to determine how the state defines “father.” In Colorado, a man is presumed to be the natural father of a child if:

  • Man and mother are married during child’s birth or within 300 days after marriage is terminated;
  • The man and the mother attempt to marry before the child’s birth, but the marriage is or could be declared invalid; and
  • If the attempted marriage could be declared invalid only by a court, the child is born during the attempted marriage or within 300 days after its termination; or
  • If the attempted marriage is invalid without a court order, the child is born within 300 days after the termination of cohabitation.
  • The man and the mother attempt to marry after the child’s birth, but the marriage is or could be declared invalid. The man, however, must also acknowledge paternity in writing, be named as the child’s father on the birth certificate, and be obligated to support the child.

There are several other situations in which a male may be presumed to be the natural father of a child. These include (1) if the man accepts the child into his home while under the age of majority and openly holds the child as his natural child; (2) if the man acknowledges paternity in writing; or (3) through genetic tests or other tests of inherited characteristics. If a man acknowledges paternity in writing, the document must be filed with the court or Registrar of Vital Statistics.

Some states require an unmarried man to register with the state’s paternity or putative father registry. The purpose of such registry is to allow unmarried males to be notified in an action to terminate parental rights as part of adoption proceedings. This allows the unmarried male the opportunity to appear in court and to protest an adoption proceeding. Colorado, however, does not maintain a putative father registry.

Contact a Colorado Springs Family Law

If you have any questions regarding the parental rights of an unmarried male, an experienced Colorado Springs family law attorney at Noffsinger Law can help answer your questions. Noffsinger Law provides legal services in a variety of family law matters, including paternity disputes, parental rights, adoptions, and divorces.

Contact a Colorado Springs family law attorney today at Noffsinger Law for help with all your family law needs.