Welcoming a new baby into the family is exciting, and some mothers are certain of who the father is. However, there are some cases when a baby is born to a mother who is unsure. When this happens, both the mother and potential fathers have options to begin the process of establishing paternity. Establishing paternity over the child can be beneficial for the entire family, but it gives the father a significant amount of responsibility. What does the paternity process look like?
How to Establish Paternity
Paternity can be established in one of two ways. The first is through the courts, in which a judge will help determine the father of a child as well as what he’ll be responsible for. The second way of establishing paternity is through voluntary means.
If a man and woman both agree that the man is the father of the woman’s child, they can fill out a Voluntary Acknowledgment of Paternity form. This form will legally name the man as the child’s father and will become legally binding 60 days after it is completed. However, this acknowledgment will not establish child support payments or custody. The father’s name will be added to the child’s birth certificate after the form becomes legally binding.
A single mother who wants to have paternity established for her child can do so by bringing the possible father to court. Court cases can also be initiated by a man who believes he is a child’s father, Colorado’s department of human resources, or a lawyer working on behalf of a child. Such cases can be initiated before the child turns 18. The court may order either parent to submit to genetic testing as part of the process of establishing paternity.
The judge in the court case can issue a formal paternity order as well as:
- Determine legal and physical custody of the child, specifically deciding where the child will live, and which parent can make decisions about the child’s life
- Who will pay for the court fees as well as the genetic testing
The judge will take the best interests of the child into consideration when making their decisions. Specifically, the judge will consider:
- The opinion of each parent
- The mental and physical well-being of each parent
- Whether each parent can encourage a quality relationship between the child and other parent
- Whether each parent can place the needs of their child ahead of their own needs
If the child is already born and old enough to advocate for themselves, the judge will consider:
- The child’s wishes
- How the decision will impact the child’s home life, schooling, and social life
- The quality of the child’s existing relationships with each parent
How Is Establishing Paternity Beneficial?
Establishing paternity can benefit everyone in the family. Some benefits of establishing paternity include:
- Giving the child a sense of identity: A child may feel like they are more part of a family if they know who their father is. Establishing paternity creates the opportunity for the child to develop a relationship with not only their father, but with other people on that side of the family. These relationships can help improve both the child and father’s sense of identity.
- Providing medical history: A child cannot know their entire medical history until they know who their father is. Paternity allows a child to know whether they need to look out for certain genetic diseases or traits that can affect them throughout their life. Paternity is also important because it gives the father the option to add their child to their health insurance policy.
- Custody: Any father who wants to be able to spend time with their child needs to establish paternity over them. It gives them the ability to seek custody and visitation rights and gives them the opportunity to make decisions about their child’s upbringing.
- Financial benefits: A child may be eligible for certain benefits through their father. Those benefits include child support, social security, pensions, veterans’ benefits, and more. The benefits can be very impactful in a child’s life, and they can only access them once legal paternity has been established.
- Child support: Mothers have some incentive to get paternity established as well. They cannot petition for child support without it, and that income can help them raise the child. Having a set visitation schedule with the child’s biological father can also give them some much needed breaks from caring for the child.
Are There Downsides to Establishing Paternity?
There may be downsides to establishing paternity for certain parents. It depends on how they feel about parenthood. Some examples of potential cons to establish paternity include:
- Added responsibility: Once paternity is established, a father will become legally responsible for their child in some form for the next 18 years. This can be overwhelming for some parents. It can also add a financial burden on the father in the form of child support payments.
- Parental interactions: Paternity may need to be established because the parents of a child are not well acquainted or because they were no longer together at the time the child was born. It may be uncomfortable for parents to have to interact once paternity is established.
An experienced family law attorney can help guide you through the process of establishing paternity and help you decide what is right for you.
Contact Us for Legal Counsel
If you believe you’re the father of a child or have recently given birth and need help establishing paternity, contact the Law Office of Alexandra White, PC today. We understand that this can be a difficult and confusing time, which is why we will advocate on your behalf with empathy. We can help you better understand your options and present your case to the appropriate parties. Contact us today at (303) 647-4245 or online for a free consultation.