When couples are unmarried and have a child, it may be necessary to establish paternity for the child for several reasons. These include determining custody, child support, inheritance and other benefits.
Paternity can be established voluntarily if the father signs a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity or similar form and then files it with the court. The father’s name will then be included on the child’s birth certificate.
If paternity cannot be established voluntarily, the child’s mother can file a petition to establish paternity. The court clerk will then have the prospective father served with a copy of the petition.
The court will hold a hearing and the prospective father may be required to submit a DNA sample to establish paternity. If the DNA test results prove that he is the child’s biological father, the court will enter an order for him to pay child support.
Child support provides for the child’s needs until he or she becomes an adult. It may include payments for basic necessities like food and shelter, education costs and medical expenses. The child support amount will be calculated and included in the court’s order, along with information about how frequently the payments must be made.
In addition to child support, once paternity is established the child can inherit from his or her father, can qualify for health insurance under the father’s plan, can receive Social Security benefits, can obtain medical history information and may be entitled to pursue wrongful death benefits, if applicable.
Establishing paternity also has emotional benefits for the child. An experienced family law attorney can answer questions about paternity and provide representation.