It is not a common occurrence to have individuals separating immediately around the time of the birth of a child, but it does happen. When parties are married, this child support and custody issues are usually through the courts via a dissolution of marriage (divorce case). But what happens to those situations where the parties were never married, or maybe even never together in a relationship? Often times the issue and concern of birth and pregnancy related medical expenses can arise as a financially important issue that requires resolution through the courts as well. Most often these issue of allocating birth and pregnancy costs is something that arises in a paternity case under Colorado Revised Statutes, Title 19.
Most people who share children, but were never married will file what is called an allocation of parental responsibilities (custody) case, in which issues of parenting time, decision-making, and child support will be dealt with. These types of cases governed under Title 14 of the Colorado Revised Statute and the Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act. Don’t let the Act fool you, the Section still applies to parties that were never married when going through a APR case. In regular APR or custody situations, the paternity of the child is not in question and the case can be filed anytime between the birth of the child and the age of emancipation (18). You cannot file a standard custody case prior to the birth of the child in anticipation of custody issues that may arise thereafter. However, what is important for expectant mothers contemplating separation, new mothers who have separated from the other parent, and even mothers with young children who have not filed anything with the biological father to know is that there is no statutory authority for an award of birth-related and pregnancy-related expenses when you file a case under C.R.S. Title 14. Pursuant to In Re Custody of Garcia, 695 P.2d 774 (Colo. App. 1984), a case filed under C.R.S. §14-10-123, the Uniform Dissolution of Marriage Act, which encompasses APR cases, the trial court does not have jurisdiction to make an award of medical expenses associated with the pregnancy/birth of the minor child.
The reasoning behind this holding is that first, the parties who file for an APR case were never married, and therefore the court cannot award the medical expenses as a form of a marital debt pursuant to C.R.S. §14-10-113. Secondly, the court does not have the authority to award past expenses, such as the pregnancy/birth costs prior to the filing of a Petition for APR as a form of child support under C.R.S. §14-10-115. Jurisdiction over the other party in an APR case only starts upon service of the Petition. The exclusive jurisdiction to award pregnancy and birth-related costs lies in Title 19 of the Colorado Revised Statute, specifically Article 4, the Uniform Parentage Act, in a paternity case.
C.R.S. §19-6-101, et seq., allows for paternity to be established, even prior to the birth of the child, and any presumption of paternity, as detailed in §19-4-105 and shown by a preponderance of the evidence, may then be rebutted by clear and convincing evidence. Once paternity is established, the court can make findings regarding parenting time, decision-making, and child support. This also allows the court, as part of the child support aspects of the case, to include orders regarding allocating birth related and pregnancy related medical expenses between the parents. Specifically, C.R.S. §19-4-116, holds that a father may be responsible for the reasonable expenses of the mother’s pregnancy and that “bills for pregnancy, childbirth expenses, and genetic testing are admissible evidence without the necessity of third-party foundation testimony and shall constitute prima facie evidence of the amounts incurred for such services or for expenses incurred on behalf of the child.” Any expenses awarded under this statute will be entered in the form of a judgment, which can be paid through periodic payments or a lump sum. The court also has the authority to allocate the expenses in conjunction with child support, C.R.S. §19-4-129. In those instances, the C.R.S. §14-10-115 Guidelines for child support will generally be used, though the court is not bound by them in a Title 19 case. Contact our law firm to speak with our lawyers about birth expenses and allocation of parental responsibilities.