In a day and age where more couples are having children outside of marriage, more attention has been drawn to a father’s rights toward his biological children, namely when he and the child’s mother are no longer in an intimate relationship.
When a child’s parents are married when he or she is born, the courts do not question “who” the child’s father is. That is because the woman’s husband is automatically assumed to be the child’s father. What if parents are not married when a child is born? In that case, the father’s paternity must be established legally.
To establish paternity means to determine who a child’s legal father is. If a child is born out of wedlock, paternity can be established by: 1) the parents signing a Declaration of Paternity stating who the child’s legal parents are, or 2) by obtaining a court order that states who the child’s legal father is.
If the parents are not married when the child is born, in the eyes of the law, that child does not have a “legal father” until his paternity is established. So, even if a father knows that he is the child’s biological father, he will have no rights or responsibilities toward his child until paternity is established.
Establishing paternity is necessary for:
- Obtaining child support
- Obtaining child custody or visitation
- Getting the biological father to contribute to health insurance and childcare
What if one parent disagrees about paternity?
In some cases, a woman believes that a man is the father of her child, but the alleged father does not agree with her. If the alleged father does not think that he is the child’s father, the court can order the alleged father to submit to a DNA test to settle the conflict once and for all.
Once it’s established that a man is the father of a child, he will have the same rights and responsibilities as a father who was married to the mother at the time of the child’s birth.
He will have the right to request custody or visitation, but he will also be on the hook for child support, and a share of other relevant child-related expenses.
Generally, any man that is told that he is the father of a child has the right to find out if he is definitely the child’s father by requesting a DNA test.
To obtain a sample of the father and child’s DNA, a cotton squab, resembling a Q-tip, is gently rubbed inside the mouth to collect DNA-rich saliva. It’s a simple, painless process that opens the door for child custody, visitation and child support.
To learn more about establishing paternity, contact Cutter & Lax to meet with a board certified family law specialist!