Children come into the world and become part of many different kinds of families. But unless the biological parents of the child are heterosexual and legally married at the time of the child’s birth, the child’s legal relationship with his or her parent’s is not going to be so clearly defined.
When talking about paternity, the relationship we are focusing on is fatherhood. Not only does legally establishing the relationship provide the child with a clear sense of identity, but it can also afford and protect certain rights of the father and the child. For example, if paternity of the child has not been legally established, the child could be denied social security benefits provided to a deceased or disabled parent, denied inheritance, or benefits from life or health insurance policies. The law imposes a duty on both parents to support their children. Even if the father of the children is not involved early in the child’s life or unable to support the child financially at the time of the child’s birth, establishing paternity will make it possible to collect support later from the father or for the Father to receive support if he were to assume care and custody of the child.
The easiest way to establish paternity if you are not married to the other parent is to sign a paternity affidavit at the hospital within 72 hours of the child’s birth. Both parents must complete the affidavit and attest that the individual is the father of the child.
Another option to establish paternity is to have the parents complete a paternity affidavit through the local health department before the child is 19 years old. This option is only available if no father is listed on the child’s birth certificate.
Lastly, the parents can establish paternity by filing an action in a court of law. This option is often done, since they can simultaneously request orders regarding custody, parenting time, and child support. When going through the courts, the parents sometimes agree to the paternity or may request a genetic test be ordered by the court. However, if a man signed a paternity affidavit and then requests a genetic test be done for paternity he must request the genetic testing within 60 days of the singing of the affidavit or the court can deny his request.
What happens with the birth certificates? If a child is born outside of the marriage and a paternity affidavit is executed within 72 hours of the child’s birth at the hospital, the birth certificate will have the father’s name and the child can have either the mother or the father’s last name. However, if there is no paternity affidavit signed, the father’s name will not be on the birth certificate and the child can only take the mother’s last name.
However, signing a paternity affidavit is voluntary. There are significant consequences that come with being a parent, including monumental legal and financial responsibilities. When a person establishes themselves as the father of the child, it may be very difficult to reverse that determination. Since signing a paternity affidavit has legal consequences, you may want to consult an attorney before signing. You must receive both written and oral information about your alternatives, rights, and responsibilities when signing a Paternity Affidavit.
Remember though, every situation is different, and there are nuances and exceptions to the general rules. The attorneys at Dillon Legal Group are here and ready to help. Bear in mind that this article is not a substitute for legal counsel regarding your situation. Please call to schedule an appointment about your case. We look forward to hearing from you.