Paternity and a Father's Rights and Obligations

Paternity is a term used to describe the legal acknowledgement that a man is the father of a child. When paternity is established in the eyes of the law, the father has specific rights and obligations in relation to the child. The father may have the right to custody or visitation. He may have the obligation to pay child support in order to contribute to the upbringing of the child. When a married woman gives birth to a child, the husband is presumed to be the legal father. If an unmarried woman gives birth to a child, she or the child must establish paternity. Paternity may be established in any of the following ways:

  • The mother and father may mutually and voluntarily agree upon the paternity of the child by signing an affidavit.
  • A parent may petition the court in order to establish paternity. The court may look at physical evidence and witness testimony.
  • DNA testing may be used to determine whether a man is the biological father of a child.

Each state has specific proceedings that relate to establishing paternity, including deadlines and procedures that must be followed.

Why establish paternity?

There are various reasons that one may wish to establish paternity. Either a mother or a presumed father may wish to initiate paternity proceedings in order to seek child support, custody or visitation of a child or children. It may be a necessary step to take if parents are not married but want to legally acknowledge the father. Establishing paternity may also be an important issue in helping a child become a U.S. citizen, if the child was born outside of the United States to a non-citizen mother and citizen father. In some cases, establishing paternity can also help a child who is suffering from a life-threatening illness. Discovering who the biological father is can help doctors obtain a full medical history for the child.

If you want to learn more about paternity, click here to find a family lawyer in your area.