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As society changes so do the way that our relationships are structured. In this particular day and age we are finding that the number of children being born out of wedlock is increasing. The rules of the past still persist and a child that is born outside of a marriage must have paternity legally established in order for it to be considered valid.

The Importance of Establishing Legal Paternity

The court system is the only entity that can establish legal rights, like custody and placement, to the father. There are several reasons that establishing the legal paternity of your child is important. Some of these include:

  • Rights to visitation or custody
  • A say in any possible adoption proceedings
  • Coverage under the father’s medical insurance
  • Inheritances or life insurance policies of the father
  • Child support
  • Veterans’ benefits
  • Social Security benefits

The 3 Ways That Paternity Can Be Established

There are three ways that paternity can be established:

  1. Voluntary Paternity: If the man willingly signs the Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgement form then, in the eyes of the law, he is considered to be the father and his name will be added to the child’s birth certificate. This form can be found at the hospital where the child was born and can be signed at any time after the birth. If the mother is married, the process must be done through the courts.
  2. Court Ruling: The blue acknowledgement form should not be signed if there is any doubt about the true paternity of the child. Either party has the option to start a court action in order to legally establish paternity. To establish paternity, court-ordered testing will be required.
  3. Subsequent Marriage: If paternity is not established through the signing of the Voluntary Paternity form or through a court ruling, the child can be legitimized through the marriage of the parents. The Acknowledgement of Marital Child (Legitimation) form must be signed for the father to receive legal rights and will provide the same privileges as if the parents were married before the child’s birth.

The state’s interests lie in providing the minor child with support. If either party has received any kind of federal or state aid, like medical assistance or food stamps, the child support office in that jurisdiction will start their own paternity suit. A lawsuit can also be filed if one of the parties refuses to cooperate with the visitation mandate. If paternity has already been legally established, a family case must be filed.

When the Parties Don’t Agree: What You Need To Know

If the parties cannot agree on placement and/or custody, court action will be necessary. The courts will refer the parties to family court counseling where a professional mediator will help resolve any issues. If no agreement can be reached, a custody study may be necessary; this option’s availability varies from county to county. The court must be petitioned for a Guardian ad Litem (GAL) who will be appointed to the case; his or her responsibility is to protect the interests of the child. He or she will conduct an investigation and make recommendations to the courts based on what is revealed. In most courts it is required for each party to pay the court or the GAL a deposit and any later fees are divided appropriately between the parties. This process can take over a year to complete and can be quite costly.

Horizons Law Group Can Help You Get the Outcome You Desire

The attorneys at Horizons Law Group are experienced in handling these kinds of cases and will help you navigate the ins and outs of the paternity process. We also offer our clients private mediation to help resolve any disputes and bring everyone to agreement. Call us today to make an appointment or to speak to an attorney about your legal rights at 262.432.3600