Why Is It Important to Establish Paternity?


If parents are unmarried, it is important to note that the law does not automatically acknowledge the biological father as a legal parent. Instead, paternity, or determining who the child’s legal father is, must be established.

There are various advantages to establishing paternity for unmarried parents and their children. Establishing paternity not only protects a father’s rights to his children, but also provides the mother with financial and emotional support. From a legal standpoint, the mother can hold the father legally responsible for his child once parentage has been determined. Determining parentage also helps a child form an emotional bond with both parents and get additional love, support, and care. Today, we will go over the reasons behind why it is important to establish paternity.

The Benefits of Establishing Paternity

The benefits to establishing paternity include but are not limited to the following:

  • Creates a strong emotional tie between the parents and the child
  • Allows the father to travel with the child
  • Encourages a relationship with a father and his child
  • Ensures a father has a legal relationship with his child
  • Grants the father the right to child custody and visitation
  • Provides access to family medical records and history
  • Grants eligibility for the child to receive future benefits from the father, such as life insurance benefits, health insurance benefits, and more
  • Provides the child with the right to inherit from the father
  • Gives the mother the right to child support 

If you are a single mother raising a child on your own, establishing paternity could provide you with additional support. If you would like to ask for child support, you will need to determine who the father of your child is before petitioning the court for a child support order. Additionally, it may also behoove you to share custody of your child as being a single parent comes with certain challenges.

Can you Contest Paternity?

If the parents of a child are married and have a child, the immediate assumption is that the husband is the child’s father. Parentage can be contested within the first 2 years of a child’s life though, so if you have reason to believe that you are not your child’s father, you should consult with an attorney. Paternity is established differently if the parents are unmarried. A paternity test will need to be filed with the court to determine who the child’s father is, which will also protect his right to custody and visitation.

How to Establish Paternity

In California you can establish paternity by signing a voluntary declaration of paternity or going to court. A voluntary declaration of paternity is signed by both parents who acknowledge that they are the child’s parents upon completion. After signing this legal document, both parents have equal rights to care and provide for the child. If there are any disputes over parentage, you must go to court to resolve the issue. A judge will ask for a DNA test during this time.

It is important to note that you do not need to determine parentage if you are married to the other parent or (parentage is assumed) have already signed a voluntary declaration of paternity. Additional if a local child support agency has filed a paternity case in court, you will not need to establish parentage as well.

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