Paternity: Establishment, Declaration, and Uncertainty in Custody Disputes

Lawyer with couple

There are instances when it becomes necessary to establish paternity in settling divorce-related disputes. Generally, with married couples, jurisdictions automatically presume the husband is the father of the child. However, it is often immediately necessary to establish paternity when an unmarried couple has a child. This should be done soon after the birth.

Making an establishment of paternity protects the mother, father, and the child down the line. From the beginning, the couple will understand their rights in relation to the child, whether this involves visitation, support, custody, or inheritance. Those involved in any kind of paternity dispute, especially if involving an unmarried couple, should consider the services of a family attorney to provide assistance and support in this area of the law.

Declaration of Paternity

Paternity is established when a father is named in the birth certificate of the child. However, in the case of unmarried parents, the father is given the opportunity to voluntarily sign an acknowledgement of paternity. This is done at the hospital or at a later time. The father is often pressured to sign this acknowledgement, as it is a way for the state to put pressure on him and ensure at least two people have a responsibility to support the child.

A voluntary declaration of paternity holds the legal weight of a court order. Once signed and submitted, the father’s paternal rights are legally established, and he is bound to provide support for his child.

Paternity Statement

Couple consulting with lawyer

There are instances when a couple opts not to sign a voluntary acknowledgement of paternity and the father is not named on the birth certificate. In such cases, the couple must sign an informal statement of paternity. It is important this document is notarized to avoid legal issues and potential reversals down the line. The document can be used in cases of a child support concern or a custody dispute.

Paternity Lawsuits

Paternity related legal disputes usually surround a father’s responsibility for providing child support, visitation rights, and custody. If a father declines to sign a paternity statement, he is still obliged to provide child support. The court usually brings the father in to establish paternity and determine the appropriate level of child support he must provide. The state involves the court in order to ease welfare expenses, as the mother now shares the responsibility with another person.

Unmarried fathers may be given more and more rights to their child. This is true particularly when they have immediately and consistently attempted to form a relationship with their child, and the mother refused this.

Uncertainty of Paternity

The father of the child should sign their name on a birth certificate and make a voluntary declaration of paternity. However, if there is any uncertainty, the father should not sign this acknowledgement. Otherwise, he will be liable to provide child support and have to reimburse the state with welfare payments until paternity is revoked and it is found he is not the child’s biological parent.

An early determination of paternity reduces future complications related to child custody and support. The courts usually insist that paternity should be established to reduce the state’s welfare expenses, whether or not the mother wishes the father to be named.