Establishing paternity is the way you legally declare and acknowledge who the father of a child is. This is often done within the first few days of the child's life by signing a voluntary acknowledge form. However, in some instances a mother who believes a certain man is the father of her child, or the man himself, petitions a family court to establish paternity. In fact, paternity cases are heard every day in courtrooms throughout the country. Legally declaring the father has benefits for the child and parents. Here are four important reasons to establish paternity.
Visitation and Custody Agreements
If the parents are unmarried and no longer together, establishing paternity is the first step to gaining rights such as visitation and/or reaching a custody agreement. Unless there is evidence to suggest otherwise, family courts presume that it's in the best interest of the child that both parents be involved in raising the child. If one or both parents disputes the paternity of the child, the courts use a legal process, which includes DNA testing, to establish the paternity of the child and conclude with a court order stating who the biological father is.
The law in every state requires that both parents provide financial support for their child. Family court can provide an order that establishes child support that is fair for both parents and adequately cares for the needs of the child. The court can also monitor child support to ensure that money is collected and paid out correctly. Once established, the child support order must be followed. If a parent fails to pay a child support order, the court enforces the order through tools such as direct wage deductions, federal tax refund withholding, passport restrictions and driver's license suspension.
Establishing paternity ensures that the child has access to family medical information that may play a role in the child's health. Because children inherit genes from both parents, he or she and their primary physician need to know whether he or she may inherit a health condition from either side of the family. In addition, health history from both sides of the family plays a role in risk factors for certain health conditions.
Monetary and Insurance Rights
Establishing paternity entitles the child to social security benefits from a parent who becomes disabled or dies. It also entitles the child to other monetary rights such as veteran's benefits, life insurance and estate inheritance. The child may also be denied health insurance on the father's health plan if legal paternity has not been established.
For more information, contact an attorney like the Law Office of Shelli Wright Johnson.