Paternity meaning, according to Childwelfare.gov means, “fatherhood”. When paternity is established, the child’s genetic father becomes legally identified as the child’s parent. The laws of paternity differ for married parents and unmarried parents.
The law on paternity can be thwarted; understanding the basics and consulting an attorney may be necessary in making sure you understand the details of your situation.
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What Is Parentage/Paternity Law?
Parentage cases are also referred to as paternity cases. These cases are presented to the court and the court makes orders that say who the child’s legal parents are.
If parents are married when a child is born, the law assumes that the married persons are the child’s legal parents. Parentage is automatically established in most cases involving married persons.
For parents who are not married, parentage of the child needs to established legally. This means, if the parents of a child were not married when the mother became pregnant or when the child was born, the child does not have a legal father until paternity is established.
In most states, there are 2 main ways to establish parentage when the parents of the child are not married:
- Acknowledgement of Paternity/Declaration of Paternity: This is a form that both parents sign voluntarily. The purpose of this form, is to officially and legally establish who the parents of the child are. This form is available in the hospital during delivery of the child. It can be signed later but, that will affect the information that is put on the birth certificate.
- Court Order: This typically occurs in a paternity suit. Seeking the advice of an attorney will aide in efficiency.
A properly signed Declaration of Paternity or Acknowledgement of Paternity has the same effect as a court order without having to go to court.
If circumstances warrant, a judge can order a paternity test from which paternity DNA testing will ultimately determine whether an alleged father is the biological father of the child. After determination is made, the judge can make a ruling based on the state’s criteria, or the parties involved can come to a private agreement. Father’s need to be mindful that although the initial testing (ordered by the court) is paid for by the state, if the results conclude that the assumed father is the biological father, the court may order the father to pay the state for the test.
Importance of Establishing Paternity
Establishing paternity is necessary before custody, visitation, or child support will be ordered by the court. This is important for the father and for the child. Established paternity secures a father’s rights and gives the child the rights to all the benefits they deserve. These legal rights and privileges include:
- The right to a father-child relationship.
- The child may be entitled to father’s benefits such as health insurance, social security, pensions, and child support.
- Father’s inheritance may be accessible to the child.
- The child will know his/her background. This includes medical history.
- The child will have a sense of identity.
When paternity is established, father’s may be entitled to paternity leave via The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Establishing parental rights, either acquiring them or having them stripped can be a grueling and confusing process. Courts take the rights of parents very seriously. To ensure all privileges and rights of the parties involved are maximized, contact a family law attorney in your local area to represent you.