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What constitutes a father, in legal terms?

Custody disputes most often involve two parents, but sometimes this is not as clear cut as you would assume. Whenever fathers' right are at issue, it's important to understand first how a father is determined in the state of Colorado. Each state is different but all have guidelines on who is considered the natural father.

In general, when a couple is married, the husband is automatically assumed to be the father of this child for all legal purposes. This is true even if it is known that the child has a different biological father unless the biological father's rights have already been established through the courts. The man in a marriage is assumed to be the father of any children produced within the marriage or who are born within 300 days of the couple's divorce.

However, a father can also be the natural father for legal purposes as long as he claims the child as his own and "received the child into his home." This is most often used in cases where the parents are not married and the father attempts to get paternity established after the couple separates. Another way to do this is to have a written acknowledgement of paternity filed with the courts.

Understanding how paternity is established is vital to going forward on custody cases where the parents were never married or the paternity of the child is being questioned. If you aren't sure if you are considered the natural father for legal purposes or need to start the process of establishing paternity, a family law attorney can help.

Source: FindLaw, "Legal Definition of 'Father' by State," accessed Dec. 30, 2015

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