While marriage gives certain rights and benefits to a couple and their children—favorable tax filing status, hospital visitation rights, and more—the children of unmarried parents are not without legal protection and benefits. Regardless of parents’ marital status, children are entitled to both parents’ financial support. Establishing the paternity of a child born to unmarried parents is an important legal safeguard for the child.

Legal Paternity: Definition and Benefits

Establishing a child’s paternity gives that child a legal father. Typically, this person is also the child’s biological father, but exceptions will be discussed below. In addition to the intangible benefits of a sense of identity and belonging, a child benefits from having a legal father through access to child support payments, access to greater public assistance payments, and access to the legal father’s health insurance and other benefits.

Establishing Paternity When the Parents Are Married

When a married woman gives birth, her husband is automatically the legal father of the child. This holds even if the husband is not the biological father of the child, unless steps are taken to establish another person as the biological—and thus, legal—father of the child.

Establishing Paternity When the Mother’s Husband Is Not the Father

If a woman was married to someone other than the child’s biological when the child was conceived, during her pregnancy, or at the time of the child’s birth, her spouse is the legal father of the child. If both the mother and her spouse sign the Affidavit of Non-Paternity, which can be filed at a town or city’s clerk’s office or the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics (RVRS), the spouse is no longer considered financially responsible for the child. The biological father may then complete the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Parentage, establishing the biological father as the legal father. The biological father’s name will then be added to the child’s birth certificate.

If the (suspected or purported) biological father refuses to acknowledge paternity, a court can order genetic testing on the mother, alleged biological father, and child to establish the child’s paternity. Evidence aside from genetic testing may also be used to establish paternity.

Establishing Paternity When the Mother Is Unmarried

When the mother is not married at the time of a child’s birth, the biological father can immediately complete the Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity at the hospital. This can also be done at the local clerk’s office or the RVRS. Acknowledgement of paternity may be rescinded within sixty days if the acknowledged father has doubts about biological paternity.

If paternity is not voluntarily acknowledged or is rescinded, the court may order genetic testing to determine paternity.

A child’s paternity can be acknowledged or established by court-ordered testing even if the father is married to someone other than the child’s mother.

Skilled Paternity Attorneys Here For You

However your family is structured, your child is entitled to legal and financial benefits through both parents. Call me at (508) 752-2727 to discuss how I can best protect your child’s interests by establishing paternity.