Why Establishing Paternity Is Important for the Support of a Child

If a couple is married at the time a baby is born, paternity is assumed and already established. However, if the father is not married to the mother, paternity may need to be established before other matters can successfully move forward. That can include matters related to child support, seeking other types of benefits, or asserting father’s rights.

How Does Paternity Impact the Ability to Seek Child Support?

Establishing paternity means that you establish the fact that someone is the legal father of a child. This creates an obligation for the father to support the child, which can make it possible to seek child support.

Paternity is assumed if the father is married to the mother at the time the child is born or if the child is born within the first 300 days after the end of a marriage. In such cases, the father may have to take action to disprove paternity to remove his obligations of support.

However, in other cases, you may need a paternity affidavit or a court order to establish the fact that a man is the legal father of a child. Note that putting the father’s name on the child’s birth certificate does not establish paternity and would not guarantee the ability to seek child support.

Paternity Isn’t Required for a Father to Voluntarily Support a Child

A father is free to provide support for a child voluntarily even without establishing paternity. However, this can be a risky situation for both parents and the child. The father may be providing support without having any real parental rights—the mother may be in full control of the situation and could limit the father’s time and connection with the child without any potential for relief until paternity is established.

At the same time, the father may decide to stop voluntarily supporting the child, especially if he believes that the child is not his for any reason. The mother may need to seek to establish paternity before she can turn to legal remedies for the support situation.

Other Reasons to Establish Paternity

Child support is not the only reason that it may be important to establish paternity. Some other benefits of establishing paternity are described below.

Access to Other Benefits

Legal paternity may be required before a child can take advantage of certain types of benefits related to their father. This could include access to Social Security benefits based on parental income and health factors and access to benefits for the children of veterans if the father is a veteran. If the father wants to add a child to his health insurance plan, he may need to prove that the child is legally his if they are not a dependent in the father’s household.

Ability to Petition for Visitation or Custody

Fathers who want to fight for their rights to visitation or any type of joint custody must typically establish paternity. This is true even if the mother has always agreed verbally that the man is the biological father and has previously cooperated with him to allow him to see and have a relationship with the children. He can’t typically be granted any type of legal custody rights without paternity.

Support for Inheritance Rights

A man doesn’t necessarily need to establish paternity to leave behind an inheritance for a child. There are options in estate law for leaving assets to people you aren’t even related to, after all. However, establishing paternity ensures that a child is legally recognized as a direct heir, and this can be important in supporting inheritance rights. That’s especially true if the man passes away without a will or other estate plan.

Enhancing a Child’s Sense of Identity

There may be some value to the child in knowing they have a legal connection to a man as their father. A man recognizing a child in this way and establishing legal channels for support can be important for emotional wellbeing. It can also help a child know what their family history is, which can be important in the future for medical and other reasons.

Talk to a Family Law Attorney About Establishing Paternity

There are many benefits of establishing paternity, and they impact the mother, father, and the child. Whether you are a mother seeking to establish paternity so you can get court-ordered child support or a father who wants to establish paternity for the purpose of asserting your rights to visitation or custody, one of the first steps to take is speaking to a family law attorney.

An experienced family law attorney will talk with you to learn more about your situation and help you understand what options you might have for establishing paternity. They can also help you with the required paperwork and petitions, guide you through the court process, and help you ensure that you create a foundation that can help support success with further actions in the future.

To find out more about your options for establishing paternity and to work with a family law team experienced with cases in Indiana, contact the Deidra Haynes Law Office by calling 317-785-1832 today.