ESTABLISHING PATERNITY: 101
If the need ever arises to seek child support, a finding of paternity is required before a support order can be established, if a child is born to unmarried parents. Even if the parents plan to marry after the baby is born, establishing paternity as early as possible protects the father’s relationship with the child from the very beginning.
A father can acknowledge paternity on his own by signing a written admission or voluntary acknowledgement of paternity. An acknowledgement of paternity ultimately becomes a finding of paternity after 60 days, unless the man denies that he is the father before that time. A finding of paternity based on an acknowledgement generally may only be challenged based on fraud, duress, or material mistake of fact.
Each state has a program where the hospital gives unmarried parents an opportunity to acknowledge the father’s paternity at birth. Each state is also required to assist parents in establishing paternity until a child turns 18, through offices such as vital records.
When necessary, paternity can be established through a court or administrative hearing. If a man is served with notice of a paternity hearing and does not appear, paternity can be established by default. If a man is not certain that he is the father of a child, he can request that genetic testing be arranged. Genetic tests are easily administered and highly accurate.
Establishing paternity is very important. Once accomplished, the child gains legal rights and privileges, including inheritance rights, access to the father’s insurance benefits, social security benefits and veteran’s benefits, if applicable. Furthermore, the child’s medical history will be more complete, which assists physicians and other healthcare providers in properly treating the child. More importantly, the child will be able to develop and nurture a relationship with his or her father and gain a sense of identity.
Call our office today for a free consultation to discuss this and any other issues, (205) 988-5570.