Fathers who are unmarried to their child’s mother may have a more difficult time gaining paternal rights as mentioned in our most recent blog. The legal significance of this paternity goes farther than just a father’s name on his child’s birth certificate. There are several legal benefits and implications that change the responsibilities of the father and the relationship with his child.
There are a variety of ways for a father to claim the paternity of a child. Involuntary paternity occurs when the mother, or the state, seeks to prove paternity of the child in a court of law. By contrast, voluntary paternity occurs because the father actively seeks paternity of the child. The child can be related by blood or not; voluntary paternity occurs in situations such as the father marrying the mother of the child after the child is born (and signing a legitimization form).
Whether the child is proven to be the father’s voluntarily or involuntarily, the legal responsibilities are the same. When a father is proven legally responsible for a child he must share the responsibility with the mother of the child, assuming she is in the child’s life. This means financially he is responsible for supporting the child even if visitation is not part of the custody agreement. If the father is not paying child support a lawsuit may be filed by the mother.
When a child is deemed yours under the eyes of the law there are financial obligations that must be met by the father. If these obligations are not met, it could mean that a child support lawsuit could be filed by the mother or the state. It is important to remember that the child will need to be supported until he is an adult. Whenever possible it is preferable that the father be a part of the child’s life in more than a financial way- if deemed appropriate by the custody hearing.
Source: findlaw.com, “Legal Significance of Paternity,” Accessed Aug. 31, 2014