Establishing the Paternity of Your Child
As a father, nothing is more important than the love and well-being of your children. It can be a motivating factor in you being the best person that you can be, and you want to be an active and engaged part of their lives for years to come.
However, for many fathers, that simply is not an option. Many couples do not get married before having children, and this means that they need to go through the necessary steps, in order to establish paternity and custodial rights.
Getting on the birth certificate
The process varies from state to state, but generally, the first step in the process involves getting on the birth certificate. Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity (VAP) forms also are available for fathers to sign at the hospital at the time of the child’s birth.
This step seems simple, but given the complications that can be involved within any couple’s relationship, let alone one expecting a child, you may run into issues.
You will not have custodial rights of your child if you do not establish that you legally are the father, which is why it is so important to have a formal legal declaration that you are a parent to your child.
One way to establish this is through a formalized DNA test, which can be difficult to navigate depending on your relationship with your co-parent.
However, administrative agencies, such as the Child Support Enforcement authorities, can be helpful by offering forms and starting the process that will allow you to obtain a DNA test to establish that you are the father of the child. This process is geared more for co-parents who are on relatively civil terms.
Another method of establishing paternity and inciting a paternity test requires the assistance of your family law attorney, who can help you file a Petition for Paternity and Child Custody with your local Circuit Court or Family Court.
Afterward, the court will order a paternity test or look to see if you are on the birth certificate. Once you are proven to be the father of your child, the court order generally will include a parenting plan outlining child custody, parenting time, and other important aspects involved in the upbringing of your child.
By establishing paternity you will give your child the rights and benefits enjoyed by children whose parents are married, such as legal proof of each parent’s identity, information regarding family medical history, in case of inherited health concerns, medical or life insurance from either parent, financial support from both parents, including child support, inheritance, Social Security veterans benefits and military allowances, if you are a member of the military.
You also give yourself a few legal rights including the ability to seek a court order for child support, the ability to seek a court order for custody or parenting time, and the ability to have a say in certain legal decisions regarding the child.
Protecting your rights
After you establish paternity and custodial rights to your child, your co-parent still may attempt to keep you away from the child. If this occurs, you need to contact your family law attorney and have them file a Motion for Contempt and a Family Access Motion.
This will force your co-parent to comply with the court order and allow your parenting time to occur. Otherwise, they will face contempt of court charges.
As a parent, you likely may be asked to provide child support for your child. In those situations, you need to comply with Child Support Enforcement authorities, so your child can receive your financial assistance as quickly as possible, establishing your commitment to them for the court to witness.
Be a parent
While you would want to be as selfless as possible and provide for your child, regardless of whether or not the court sees, you need to make it clear to the courts and to your co-parent that you are an active and engaged parent in your child’s life and that you are going to be there for them in any way that they need. In many cases, that means making sure these entities are watching.
Once all of the legal dust settles, you hopefully will have the opportunity to enjoy all of the precious moments that you will cherish as a parent.