How do I get an order of paternity?

Law presumes that when a married heterosexual couple has children the husband is the father of those children. Disproving this presumption often can only be achieved through a DNA test and if this a concern for you please contact our office for a consultation. If the child does not have married parents at the time of its birth paternity can be established voluntarily, by agreement of the parents. Parents in agreement can sign a “Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity” form, and then the father’s name can be added to the child’s birth certificate.

However, the most common way to establish paternity is through a court action. Under Colorado law, any of the following persons or agencies may bring a court action to establish paternity:

  1. the child, through a personal representative if the child is under 18 years of age
  1. the child’s mother
  2. a man who believes he is the father or who has been identified as the father
  3. the Colorado Department of Human Resources
  4. a county department of social services, or
  5. a legal representative for a person who has the right to go to court to establish paternity but is deceased, incapacitated, or a minor.


The court can then order a DNA test to establish paternity, after the genetic test results establish paternity, the judge can also issue orders regarding child support (see child support section above), health insurance for the child, allocation of parental responsibilities (see other custody questions above), court costs and fees.

Establishing paternity can ensure that a child is supported financially and can maintain a relationship with his or her father. This important step in ensuring your child’s emotional and physical help can be challenging to navigate on your own. If you would like the assistance of a professional with extensive experience in family law matters please schedule a consultation with the attorneys of Smith & Shellenberger, LLC today.

When does child support obligation end?

In Colorado a child support obligation typically lasts until a child turns 19, graduates high school, or joins the military, whichever happens first.  Colorado courts cannot order parents to pay for college education of their children. The obligation terminates automatically. C.R.S. 14-10-115(1.6). However, the obligation does not automatically terminate if:

  1. You still owe arrears.
  2. If you still owe child support for another child or children.
  3. If the support order was entered before July 1, 1997.

How does the court determine how much child support a parent pays?

In Colorado, the court first determines the the gross income of each parent. Information for these calculations is taken from the financial disclosures each party makes at the initial discovery stage of a divorce or custody case. The court determines the precise number of overnights the child has with each parent. Based on the number of overnights the court uses one of two formulas to calculate the necessary child support based on the parent’s incomes.

Child support can also be adjusted based on educational or healthcare expenses paid by one parent.  The calculations of exact numbers can be complicated. Other factors like the underemployment of a parent or certain deductions form gross income can make estimating a child support obligation on your own difficult. However, you can get a general idea by utilizing the Colorado courts child support calculator, available here:

A party can also receive back child support from before the time the child custody or divorce action was filed if the parents were not living together for a period before the case was filed. This amount is calculated based on the time the parents were living apart prior to the final court order in the case, unless the court has issued temporary orders for the period during litigation.

If the parent obligated to pay child support fails to pay, that parent owes “arrears” to the other parent.  Your local Child Support Enforcement Unit will help you enforce your existing child support order by garnishing wages, government benefits, or even lottery winnings, to satisfy judgments. The CSEU has some enforcement measures not available to private attorneys. However, the attorneys at Smith & Shellenberger, LLC.

How will the court determine if I or my ex-spouse owe Child support?

Parents have an obligation to take care of their child’s needs. Thus, child support is the right of the child, not a right of the parent. Whether you pay child support during and/or after a divorce depends on how much parenting time you have and exercise. If you split parenting time essentially equally, both parents or neither may have to pay child support or some combination of the two. If there is a primary custodial parent, the other parent will likely have to pay child support. C.R.S. 14-10-115


It is important to note that whether a parent will have to pay child support is not something the court takes into consideration in determining how much parenting time is in the best interest of the child. Thus, if you are concerned about the paying child support or don’t want to pay, this is not an issue you can raise with the court. If you would like to discuss a current or potential child support obligation with our attorneys one would be happy to meet with you.

Can grandparents and other third parties seek custody of a child?

Grandparents or any third party may seek custody or allocation of parental responsibilities (APR), pursuant to C.R.S. § 14-10-123.30. However, in order to seek APR under this statute one of these two conditions must be met; either, the child must not be in the physical care of the parent, or the non-parent must have had physical care of the child for six months or longer, and the petition must be filed within six months of the termination of the non-parent’s physical care of the child. The statute requires the non-parent to give notice to the child’s parent, guardian, or person allocated parental responsibilities, who may appear and be heard on the petition for allocation of parental responsibilities.

The court will apply the best interests of the child test just like in any other allocation of parental responsibilities case, however, keep in mind that the rights of the natural parents to parent their children are still important here, even if the child is not currently living with them. Thus, these can become complicated cases. If you are interested in filing for custody of a child under this statute please contact our office and schedule a consultation to discuss your options with one of Smith & Shellenberger, LLC experienced attorneys.

What is mediation? How can it help me?

Mediation is a process of assisted negotiation. The purposes of the process is to help parties reach an agreement on issues in a divorce and hopefully create what is called a Separation Agreement. In mediation, the parties make their own decisions, however a mediator provides all the relevant background legal information and can evaluate the facts based on the law to inform the parties what offers comport with the law. The mediator is there only to provide information and facilitate negotiation. Unlike, the court they do not impose decisions on the parties. This level of agency is one primary benefit of mediation.
In almost all cases Colorado family law courts require mediation. Colorado court rules promote mediation in family law cases. Therefore, courts often order mediation occur prior to a final hearing. Courts order mediation to save the parties and the court time and resources. However, this is not the only reason to engage in mediation. People are often happier with the result of mediation because they reach it on their own. Additionally, mediation is often preferable to spending lots of money in attorney fees and several months litigating a divorce.
Colorado attorney ethics rules require attorneys tell their clients that there are alternative methods of dispute resolution, such as mediation. CRPR 2.1. At Smith & Shellenberger, LLC we believe in the benefits of mediation and will advise you on your rights and best interests prior to engaging in mediation. Our office can also recommend mediators we have worked with in the past and help ensure that you get the most value out of your time spend with the mediator.
Mediators are neutral third parties. They do not represent either party in a divorce. Thus, it is helpful to have an attorney who can advise you and keep your interests in mind during the mediation process. The attorneys at Smith &Shellenberger, LLC, we can help you use mediation to reach a resolution to your divorce that saves you time and money and helps you maintain the important relationships with your former spouse and children that will allow you all to move forward together harmoniously.

What are my rights as a grandparent to visit my grandchild?

If the child has two fit parents who wish to prevent you from seeing or having a relationship with your grandchild you do not have a right to override the wishes of a fit parent. However, if the grandchild’s parents have obtained a dissolution of marriage or an annulment, or legal separation, the child has been placed into the legal custody of someone other than a parent, or the child’s parent, has died, grandparents are allowed to petition the court for grandparent visitation under C.R.S. 19-1-117. The court hen conducts an analysis to determine whether the grandparent visitation is in the best interests of the child.

How do you get a same sex divorce in Colorado?

In Colorado same-sex marriages are treated exactly the same as any other marriage. This means that the same rules apply to a same-sex divorce as any other divorce. This also means that same-sex divorces can be just as complicated and difficult. Additionally, couples who formed a civil union under Colorado’s previously created civil union law must go through a process functionally indistinguishable from a divorce. If you are part of a same-sex marriage or civil union and are going through or contemplating a divorce the attorneys at Smith, Shellenberger, and Salazar, LLC want to help you.

What if I am not married to my child’s parent? How is custody determined?

If you are unmarried and are involved in a custody dispute the court will apply the same factors discussed in the custody section above. Keep in mind that if you are unmarried and do not have a custody order or parenting plan in place it is important to get one as soon as possible, even if you currently have a good relationship with your child’s other parent. This is important because if you wait until issues arise, or worst case scenario, the other parent leaves with the child, it is much more difficult to pursue and enforce your parenting rights. Regardless of your right to parent your child, the status quo is always going to carry weight when determining the best interests of the child, so it is important to protect your rights and your relationship with your child as soon as possible. If you need to have parental responsibilities ordered by the court please contact our office as soon as possible to schedule a consultation.