There is no doubt that children need both parents involved in their lives whenever that is possible. But sometimes the circumstances of a baby's birth don't clearly indicate who the father is.
Having a legal father is important for a child. Establishing paternity gives rights to the child and both parents, as you will read below.
Benefits and rights for the child after paternity is established
Some diseases and conditions are hereditary. By children having access to the medical histories of both sides of their families, they can better track their health and be alert for any anomalies during routine exams.
But proving the identity of the father provides tangible value as well. It allows the father's name to be listed on the birth certificate. If the father is identified, he can provide support for his offspring and add the baby to any health or life insurance policies that may be in effect. Should the father die or become incapacitated, his minor children can draw veteran's benefits, Social Security benefits and inheritances.
Advantages to the parents
Establishing paternity gives both mothers and fathers legal rights to their children, including seeking support from the other parent and time spent with the child in their custody or during visitation.
When must paternity be established?
Any time that a child is born to unmarried parents, paternity has to be established. If the mother is married to her husband, the husband is considered to be the father of the child. If that is not the case, paternity must be proven to transfer the legal responsibilities and rights to a biological father.
Unmarried fathers can sign a paternity acknowledgement at the time of the baby's birth or any time thereafter. The form must be both filled out and signed in the presence of a notary public. Most hospitals have someone on staff to do this before the baby and mother ever leave the hospital.
Complicated paternity situations
Sometimes babies are conceived in out-of-wedlock unions when both parents are married to other spouses. Then, it can be a delicate thing to negotiate a paternity acknowledgement and usually requires the help of the courts.
A parent can file a petition in the court to determine the paternity of a child. If this is contested, the family law court judge will likely order an oral DNA test of the alleged father and the baby. If it's a match, the father will then be responsible for paying support to the baby's mother and will also have rights to spend time with the child.
Do you have questions about the paternity of a child? Learning more about your rights in the matter can give you a better idea of how to proceed.