Why Establishing Paternity is Worth the Trouble

Having children outside of marriage has become more commonplace and accepted in society over the past few decades. Through this societal shift has come awareness of the importance of fathers’ establishing paternity of their children. For unmarried couples who get along well when it comes to their children, though, what are the benefits of establishing paternity? This blog will explain why it is a good idea to do so, even if things are going well with your child’s other parent. 

Benefits of Establishing Paternity

To be clear, we will be discussing the nuances of legal paternity in this post. Biological paternity is established through genetic testing and is limited in what it can accomplish for unmarried parents. Having legal paternity of your child means you can petition to have legal access to your child through a time-sharing agreement; family courts now recognize the benefit of having both parents’ involvement in children’s lives. Another benefit of having legal paternity is that you, as the father, can have involvement in making decisions about your child’s religious and educational upbringing. Other advantages include:

  • Letting your child have an accurate idea about his or her family’s medical history
  • Having your name added to your child’s birth certificate
  • Being able to pass on government compensation, like Social Security and veteran’s benefits, to your child after you pass away
  • Being able to add your child onto your health insurance or add him or her as a beneficiary to life insurance policies
  • (For mothers) Allowing you to pursue your child’s father for child support (this can also be done through a process initiated by the Department of Child Support Services)

How Do You Establish Legal Paternity?

If you are married prior to your wife giving birth, you will automatically be designated as the child’s legal father. If you are unmarried at the time of your partner giving birth to a child you both agree is yours, you can sign a form at the hospital designating yourself as the legal father (if you and your partner both agree on paternity). 

If you and your child’s mother do not agree on paternity, you can initiate a civil action in circuit court. The judge will order a genetic test, among other things, before making a final determination on paternity. If you are found to be the legal father, the judge can make orders for child support, insurance beneficiary designations, or time sharing. If a state agency begins the action in civil court, the judge is not allowed to make orders regarding time sharing. 

As long as things are amicable between you and your child’s mother, it might seem unnecessary to establish paternity. However, just because you consider yourself to be the father does not mean the government agrees; as a result, your child might not have access to certain government benefits or insurance policies. Plus, if you and your child’s mother ever end your relationship, you will already have a legal right to see your child and partial authority to make important decisions about your child’s upbringing. 

Our firm can make the process simple and easy. For help with this or any other family law matter, get in touch with our firm through our website here to schedule a consultation.