Colorado’s Uniform Parentage Act (“UPA”) is a useful tool for two distinct reasons: to compel a minor child’s legal parent to take responsibility for his or her child or to voluntarily establish yourself as a child’s legal parent. An action commenced under the UPA is often referred to as a “Paternity” proceeding. The term “Paternity” is a bit misleading. Most often, it’s used to establish a paternal relationship, but can also be used in determining the maternal legal relationship.
In some situations, a person may not be the biological parent of a child, but may nonetheless have standing to be declared the child’s legal parent under the UPA. For instance, if a biological father has not been involved in a child’s life, but a step-father or other person has accepted that child into his home and openly holds the child out as his natural child, that step-father or other person will be determined to be a “presumed” father to the child.
Another way to be a “presumed” parent is to be the biological parent of the child, which is easily determined by genetic testing. Depending on the circumstances, certain marital relationships with the other biological parent can also create a presumption of paternity. Filing certain acknowledgements of paternity with a court or registrar of vital statistics may also create a presumption of paternity, which can be difficult to unravel if it’s later discovered that you are indeed not the biological parent.
A determination that you are a child’s legal parent may lead to substantial financial responsibility, potentially retroactive to the mother’s pregnancy and birth of the child. It’s important to consult with counsel who is well-versed in this area of the law to best protect your rights.
Given the different methods these presumptions can be established, it’s possible for two or more presumptions to conflict with one another. For instance, a step-father may have raised a child, held him or her out to be his natural child, treated and referred to the child his “son” or “daughter” and formed a strong, meaningful bond. In such a situation, pursuant to the UPA, he or she would be presumed to be that child’s legal parent. However, that child’s biological father may be alive and if so, he would also be a presumed legal parent. In this situation, the UPA provides that the “presumption which on the facts is founded on the weightier considerations of policy and logic controls.” The outcome will result on the circumstances and facts of the case, and the child’s best interest will be an important factor.
Whether you seek to establish yourself as the non-parent or legal parent of a child, there are numerous factors to consider to protect your rights. The attorneys of Sauer & Petterson Family Law have substantial experience representing clients in Paternity cases involving complicated facts and emotional circumstances. Contact us today to discuss how our experience and knowledge can help you achieve the best possible outcome in your Paternity case.