Going through the process to establish yourself as your child’s legal father may provide many benefits to you and your child. Colorado automatically recognizes you as your child’s father if you are married to his or her mother. If you and the child’s mother are not married, however, you may have to complete other steps to ensure that the law legally acknowledges you as the father. Simply giving your child your name does not make you his or her legal father.

You may find detailed information about establishing paternity on the website for the Colorado Office of Economic Security. According to Colorado law, there are several ways to establish paternity. You and the child’s mother may voluntarily sign an Acknowledgment of Paternity form. A court or judicial officer may also establish paternity. In some circumstances, the Child Support Enforcement Unit may also have the authority to determine a child’s legal father.

While it may be easiest to establish paternity at the hospital right after your child is born, you may go through the process at any time until your child turns 18. If there are extenuating circumstances, you may be able to acknowledge your legal fatherhood until your child is 21.

In many cases, the simplest way to establish paternity is by signing and filing an Acknowledgment of Paternity form. The Office of Economic Security recommends doing this even if you and the child’s mother live together in a stable relationship. Establishing yourself as your child’s father may help you maintain your relationship with your child if your connection to the mother ends.

If you are not sure you are your child’s father, you may want to get genetic testing before filing a form. After 60 days, an Acknowledgment of Paternity form is legally binding.