If you and your ex are separating, establishing paternity is essential to protecting the father’s rights and making sure that the father follows through on his responsibilities when it comes to raising the child.
If a woman is married when they became pregnant, her husband is legally presumed to be the father and paternity does not need to be established. However, if someone other than the husband is the father, that person has two years to contest the parentage.
However, if you were not married when you became pregnant with your child, you will have to take a few additional steps to establish paternity. You generally have one of two options:
- Sign a declaration of paternity: If there is no dispute regarding paternity, both parents can sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity at the hospital when the child is born so that both names appear on the child’s birth certificate. If the declaration is signed later, additional paperwork must be filed to add the father’s name to the certificate. Once the father’s name is on the birth certificate, it can be difficult to remove it, even if DNA evidence later shows he is not the father.
- File a paternity case with the court: If there is uncertainty as to who the father is or the suspected father refuses to acknowledge paternity, the mother, the suspected father, and other select parties can initiate a paternity case to establish paternity with a court order. If DNA testing is requested by either party, the court may order it and a suspected father’s refusal to submit to DNA testing may be considered evidence that he is the biological father.
Once paternity is established, the court may proceed with child custody and child support determinations. If you are establishing paternity, a family law attorney in your area may be able to help file the necessary paperwork and prepare you for your hearing.