Paternity Guide for Unmarried Parents
Establishing legal paternity of a child is absolutely essential for unmarried parents. A child does not have a legal father if her parents are not married when she is born. Without established paternity, a father has no legal right to make decisions on a child’s behalf. His insurance plan is not likely to cover his children without proof of paternity and these children will be unable to collect inheritance benefits or life insurance in the event of the father’s death. Establishing paternity allows the father to provide these benefits to his children.
Many states such as New York have a paternity acknowledgment form known as a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage that unmarried parents may sign to establish paternity for a child. In most cases, once this is signed, the records office then transfers the name of the father onto the official birth certificate. While this document does not establish paternal privileges and duties, such as custody, child support and visitation, the paper is a legal document that the parents can use to work out such issues.
Only the known biological father of the child should sign a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage, as the document carries serious legal consequences. Furthermore, it takes a great deal of legal wrangling if the signers decide to back out of the agreement later. Most states do allow either the mother or father to withdraw the voluntary acknowledgement shortly after the birth of the child, usually within 60 days, if it turns out that the man who signed the paper is not the father of the baby. After this grace period, withdrawal of an acknowledgement of parentage becomes much more difficult and requires proof of fraud, undue influence, or a serious mistake.
What if the Father Refuses to Sign the Paternity Acknowledgement Form?
If the father refuses to sign the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage, most states would allow the mother to bring about legal action to establish paternity. In most cases, a court would then require DNA testing. Once the court establishes paternity via DNA test, it can help resolve legal parentage issues, such as custody, visitation rights, and child support. If you don’t wish to go through the courts, you can get a private legal paternity test through Health Street, which carries the same weight as a court ordered test.
Non-legal Reasons to Establish Paternity
For children, knowing their father also provides crucial identity development and establishes a connection to both sides of his or her family. Understanding both sides of a child’s heritage also gives a complete picture of his or her genetic makeup and family medical history, which may become helpful if the child suffers from an inherited medical condition later in life.
DNA testing is one of the most important medical and legal tests a person can ever take. Avoid mistakes and incorrect results by using only established and proven DNA testing labs certified by AABB. Health Street only works with AABB certified laboratories.