At the time of birth, a biological mother is automatically her child’s parent – but the father only automatically has paternity rights if the mother and father are married.
In all other cases, the father must establish his legal rights. In some circumstances, it’s simple. In others, it requires a bit more effort. However, without the establishment of paternity, a father sacrifices his legal rights to his child.
What methods can be used to establish paternity?
You can establish a child’s paternity by:
- Paternity acknowledgment: A father may choose to sign form DH-511 while present at the birth. The form is sent off to the appropriate agency and recorded. Not all birthing situations may access this pathway.
- Voluntary acknowledgment: If the appropriate documentation isn’t completed at the child’s birth, you can fill out forms DH-432 or DH-743A and voluntarily acknowledge legal paternity.
- Court order and genetic testing: If the parents don’t agree on paternity or there are any questions about the child’s true paternity, a court order can require genetic testing and establish paternity from there.
Establishing paternity may not be so cut in dry in reality. Each family dynamic is unique, and the situation may dictate the most appropriate measure – but paternity has to be established in order for custody and visitation right to be formally granted. Paternity also has to be established in order to get a support order and give the child inheritance rights, among other things. In that case, learning the laws regarding establishing paternity may help you protect your legal rights.