If the mother is not married to the child’s father, the father could provide a Declaration of Paternity or Acknowledgement of Paternity to include his name in the birth certificate. If the father is present at the time of birth, then he could have his name included in the birth certificate. Changes to the birth certificate do not apply immediately. It would take a while before the records are changed.
If the father is not present at the time of birth, the affidavit of paternity could be completed until the child turns 18 years old. The affidavit can be prepared by a lawyer and needs to be notarized. Both parties, the mother and father, should sign the affidavit.
Paternity DNA testing is also another way to establish paternity. DNA testing would determine who the biological father is through genetic proof. Genetic or DNA testing should be made available upon the request on any party. When the DNA test result is positive, but the biological father refuses to acknowledge it, then it is possible for a court action to ensue. The cost of the DNA testing is usually paid by the father once the paternity is established, unless the father is deemed by the court unable to pay.
Why is it imperative that paternity is established? Child support is one of the primary reasons, especially in cases when the parents are not married. Laws require fathers to provide financial support to their children once paternity is established. In some states, there is a time limit for establishing paternity. In Ohio, for example, paternity could be established until the age of 23. If the child is no longer below 18 years old, then financial support is no longer required.
Establishing paternity would also allow the child to have access to the father’s medical history. This would be crucial in medical situations like organ transplant. It could also help in learning about genetic health issues which could be transferred from father to child.
Establishing or providing the child citizenship right is another important reason to determine paternity. Also, without paternity establishment, it is difficult for the child to acquire benefits from the father like Social Security insurance benefits, inheritance and other similar benefits.
Both the mother and the father would share equal rights to custody once the paternity is established. The parent who has the custody of the child when the acknowledgement of paternity is filed has the legal custody of the child. However, a non-custodial parent would have the right to visit or even apply for child custody.
Establishing paternity goes beyond financial support. Children have the right to have a chance of building relationship with one or both of their parents. It would give them the sense of belonging to a family and help them build their identity.