What are My Rights if I Don’t Have a Custody Agreement in Colorado?

Marlana Caruso
By: Marlana A. Caruso
PublishedFeb 2, 2023
3 minute read

Some parents who aren’t together anymore decide to keep custody issues out of the court and simply trust each other to do right by their children. But what happens if the co-parenting relationship sours? This article explains your parental rights if you don’t have a formal custody agreement in Colorado.

Bottom Line

You can petition the court for allocation of parental responsibilities to secure your legal relationship with your child.

If I Don’t Have a Formal Custody Agreement…

Can I Move Out of Colorado with My Child?

If there is no formal custody agreement in place there is technically nothing stopping you from leaving Colorado with your child. But, generally, it is better to have permission from either your child’s other parent or a court order before you move.

If you move out of state without permission, Colorado will maintain jurisdiction over your child for the next six months. During that time your child’s other parent can request an allocation of parental rights and responsibilities from the court in Colorado.

Who Pays Child Support?

Parents can go directly through child support services to establish a child support order.  A parenting plan won’t be ordered as part of that type of case, but parents will often agree on how many overnights the children will spend with each parent since that is part of the formula to calculate child support.

If no one requests a child support order, it’s a free for all.

Can My Ex Deny Me Visitation?

If a child is born in Colorado to unmarried parents, the mother is typically granted sole physical and legal custody. An unmarried father has no automatic right to parenting time. So yes, your child’s mother can legally keep your child from you if there is no custody agreement in place.

If you are an unwed father in this situation, your best option is to establish paternity and then seek further parental rights. In Colorado, there are three ways to establish paternity.

How to Establish Paternity in Colorado if You’re an Unmarried Man (H2)

Voluntary Acknowledgment

The easiest way for an unwed man to establish paternity of a child is to file a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP.) This form must be signed by both parents, and it must clearly state that you are the child’s biological father.

You and the mother can sign the form in front of a witness at the hospital or birthing facility where your child was born or at the Office of Vital Records and Statistics. 

A properly signed and filed AOP establishes you as the child’s legal father and adds your name to the birth certificate.

Once 60 days have passed since the signing of the AOP, neither you nor your child’s mother can revoke it without a court action.

Administrative Paternity Order

Another way to establish paternity is through an administrative order, which establishes a man as the father of a child without involving the courts.

This kind of order is often issued after one of the parents applies for child support through the state. When that happens, the state will conduct a proceeding to determine paternity.

The mother and assumed father will be notified about the proceedings and given time to respond. For instance, either party could request genetic testing.

Once any issues are resolved, an administrative order of paternity is issued if the man is indeed the child’s father.

Judicial Paternity Order

Finally, you can file a paternity suit to obtain a judicial paternity order from the court.

During a court hearing, the mother and possible father (or fathers) will submit information to the judge overseeing the case. The judge will then make a ruling to establish paternity.

Once You Have Established Paternity

Once there is no longer any question that you are the child’s biological father, you can file a petition with the court for allocation of parental responsibilities, often simply called an APR by attorneys. This will address the two primary issues pertaining to child custody: decision-making and parenting time.

While you wait for the judge to issue the APR, you can ask the court for temporary orders. This court order will allow you to legally see your child in the meantime. 

Read our article to learn more about how Colorado courts determine parenting time.

We Will Help You Protect Your Parental Rights

As long as you are a healthy presence in your children’s lives, you are entitled to a relationship with them. Our family law attorneys can help. Call 303-688-0944 today to begin your case assessment.

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