Whether you're the mother or the father, establishing paternity for a child conveys certain rights and responsibilities that wouldn't exist without solid evidence. Understanding how this impacts your existing rights and what additional responsibilities you have as a result will help you avoid running afoul of custodial laws. While this impacts mothers and fathers differently, it's a good idea to look at both sides of the equation.
The Mother's Perspective
Regardless of the circumstances behind a pregnancy, mothers benefit from establishing paternity as it gives them court admissible evidence of their child's parentage. This means that distant fathers can be identified for child support purposes, social services agencies can keep track of the father's earnings, and someone can be specifically named during any legal proceedings. On the other hand, having this information does require some effort on the mother's part where the father is concerned.
Just because a woman knows the name and identity of the father, and can prove it, doesn't mean that he knows. It's a good idea to notify him of the fact prior to making any decisions about how to address a pregnancy or filing for public assistance. Further, while no legal rights allow a father to prevent an abortion, some states do require consent from both parents prior to an adoption. If you're weighing these two options it's in your interests to inform the father before choosing a course of action.
The Father's Point of View
Not all states require DNA paternity in order to establish paternal responsibility for a child. In some states, simply formally acknowledging paternity of a child is all that is required, though this is largely used to enforce custodial agreements and child support responsibilities. Establishing genetic paternity as well will ensure that the child being supported is biologically related to the father.
In the case of older children, a paternity test will secure the right to establish and maintain contact with a child. Further, this evidence will provide grounds for establishing custodial rights that a father may not have previously enjoyed. This can allow a father to sue for primary custody of a child, especially if the mother is on public assistance as a result of failing to inform the child's father.
While establishing paternity is the ethical thing to do anytime a child's parentage is in question, that information can be a double-edged sword for the parties involved. Make sure that the best interests of the child are kept at the forefront of your mind during any interactions between you and the other parent. Regardless of how you feel about each other, it's important to remember that it won't only be your lives that are impacted. For further assistance, contact a local attorney, such as one from the Law Office of Shelli Wright Johnson.
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